March 10, 2014
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – One day after completing an undefeated 19-0 run through its inaugural season in the Atlantic Coast Conference with the program’s (and school’s) first ACC Championship, the No. 2 Notre Dame women’s basketball team picked up more hardware, as three of its players earned All-ACC honors from the league’s 15 head coaches, it was announced Monday by the conference office.
Fresh off her selection as the ACC Championship Most Valuable Player, sophomore guard Jewell Loyd (Lincolnwood, Ill./Niles West) was a double honoree on Monday, earning first-team All-ACC recognition as well as a spot on the five-player All-ACC Defensive Team.
Meanwhile, senior guard/tri-captain Kayla McBride (Erie, Pa./Villa Maria Academy) also was chosen for the 10-player All-ACC First Team, while senior forward/tri-captain Natalie Achonwa (Guelph, Ontario/St. Mary’s Catholic) was named to the five-player All-ACC Second Team. Like Loyd, the Fighting Irish senior pair also copped ACC all-tournament honors on Sunday, with McBride joining Loyd on the first team, while Achonwa was a second-team all-tournament selection.
Notre Dame and Duke led all conference schools with three All-ACC selections among this year’s coaches’ balloting.
The conference will unveil the coaches’ choices for its three main specialty awards — Player of the Year, Coach of the Year and Freshman of the Year — in a separate announcement on Tuesday.
Notre Dame’s three all-conference selections (as well as the balance of the all-league and all-freshman team picks) mirror the All-ACC honors the Fighting Irish trio received last week from the conference’s Blue Ribbon Panel, which is made up of media members, coaches, media relations directors and other local and national women’s basketball experts. Like the Blue Ribbon Panel, the coaches’ voting took place before the ACC Championship, but unlike the Panel, the coaches also selected an ACC All-Defensive Team, in addition to choosing the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year and Sixth Player of the Year, both of which were announced last week.
The complete rundown of the ACC coaches’ all-conference and all-freshman teams can be found on the ACC’s official web site, theacc.com.
A midseason candidate for the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) State Farm Wade Trophy, Naismith Trophy and Wooden Award (all going to the national player of the year), Loyd has started 31 games this season (she missed one due to injury), averaging career highs of 18.5 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.6 steals per game with four double-doubles, plus a team high-tying 11 20-point games and two 30-point outings (the first time a Notre Dame player has had multiple 30-point games in the same seasons since Ruth Riley in 1999-2000).
The reigning United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) National Freshman of the Year, Loyd ranks among the top 20 in the ACC in four statistical categories — scoring (7th), free throw percentage (6th – .824), field goal percentage (11th – .528) and steals (tied-12th). In conference play, she finished fifth in the ACC in scoring (19.7 ppg.), as well as second in three-point percentage (.474), fifth in free throw percentage (.864), sixth in field goal percentage (.536) and ninth in steals (1.8 spg.).
Loyd, who has scored in double figures in 37 consecutive games, the second-longest streak in program history, became the 33rd member of Notre Dame’s 1,000-Point Club on Sunday with her first basket in the 69-53 ACC Championship game win over 10th-ranked Duke. Loyd finished with a game-high 26 points to move into 31st place in school history with 1,024 points, and she is the third-fastest Fighting Irish player ever to reach the milestone, doing so in just 67 games to trail only Beth Morgan (56 games from 1993-97) and Shari Matvey (66 games from 1979-83). What’s more, she became just the third Notre Dame player to score 1,000 points before the end of her sophomore year (along with Morgan in 1994-95 and Skylar Diggins in 2010-11).
Loyd also was named the espnW National Player of the Week and the ACC Player of the Week on Feb. 24 after averaging 25.7 points and 7.7 rebounds with a .509 field goal percentage in wins over Georgia Tech, Wake Forest and No. 7 Duke, the latter victory securing Notre Dame’s first ACC regular season title.
Defensively, Loyd not only ranks 12th in the ACC in steals, but she also is just outside the top 20 (and second on the Fighting Irish roster) in rebounds. In addition, she has been charged with guarding some of the nation’s top perimeter players and has been equal to the task, most notably putting the clamps on Penn State guard (and two-time Big Ten Conference Player of the Year) Maggie Lucas (seven points on 1-8 FG after she averaged 22.2 ppg. at tipoff on Dec. 4) and Duke guard Tricia Liston (in past two meetings on Feb. 23 and March 9, combined 13 points on 5-19 shooting after averaging close to 18 ppg. entering both games).
A consensus All-America choice last year, McBride is one of the country’s top all-around players and like Loyd, she is a candidate for all major national player of the year awards this season. A member of the 2014-16 USA Basketball National Team Player Pool, McBride has started all 32 games for Notre Dame this season, registering career highs of 17.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game with a 1.82 assist/turnover ratio, while tying Loyd for team-high honors with 11 20-point games.
McBride is a fixture among the ACC statistical leaders, ranking in the top 15 in five categories — scoring (11th), free throw percentage (3rd – .874; also 19th in the nation), assist/turnover ratio (5th), assists (10th) and three-point percentage (10th – .368). Her numbers were even sharper in conference games, where she ranked seventh in scoring (19.3 ppg.), first in free throw percentage (.919), third in assist/turnover ratio (2.03) and eighth in assists (4.1 apg.).
On Feb. 3, McBride swept all the major national player of the week awards (espnW, USBWA and NCAA.com) and was named ACC Player of the Week after averaging 20.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.0 assists with a .600 field goal percentage in wins over No. 8/6 Maryland, Virginia Tech and No. 3 Duke.
Those performances are part of McBride’s remarkable success in 11 games against Top 25 opponents this year, against which she has averaged 19.5 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game with a .466 field goal percentage. In six games against top-10 teams, she’s even better, averaging 22.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game with a .495 field goal percentage.
Achonwa also is a midseason candidate for the Wade Trophy, Naismith Trophy and Wooden Award, but got a late start to her season, missing the first three games while recovering from preseason knee surgery. However, she hasn’t skipped a beat since her return, starting all 29 games for Notre Dame, while posting career highs in scoring (14.1 ppg.), assists (2.8 apg.), blocked shots (1.1 bpg.) and field goal percentage (.595), plus a team-high 7.4 rebounds per game. She also has a team-best six double-doubles this year, plus a career high-tying six 20-point outings to her credit.
An honorable mention All-America post player last year, Achonwa ranks among the ACC leaders in four categories — scoring (18th), field goal percentage (4th; also seventh in the nation), rebounding (11th) and blocked shots (12th). In conference play, Achonwa finished 14th in the ACC in scoring (15.7 ppg.), as well as second in field goal percentage (.634), seventh in blocked shots (1.3 bpg.), 10th in rebounding (7.4 rpg.) and 14th in assists (3.1 apg.).
By winning the ACC Championship, Notre Dame (32-0, 16-0 ACC) has earned the conference’s automatic berth into the 2014 NCAA Championship. The full 64-team field for this year’s tournament will be announced at 7 p.m. (ET) March 17 live on ESPN.
For more information on the Notre Dame women’s basketball program, sign up to follow the Fighting Irish women’s basketball Twitter pages (@ndwbbsid or @ndwbb), like the program on Facebook (facebook.com/ndwbb) or register for the Irish ALERT text-messaging system through the “Fan Center” pulldown menu on the front page at UND.com.
— Chris Masters, Associate Athletic Media Relations Director