March 4, 2015
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Less than 24 hours after earning first-team all-Atlantic Coast Conference recognition, University of Notre Dame women’s basketball junior guard Jewell Loyd (Lincolnwood, Ill./Niles West) and freshman forward Brianna Turner (Pearland, Texas/Manvel) collected even higher honors.
Loyd was named the 2015 ACC Player of the Year and Turner was chosen as the 2015 ACC Freshman of the Year, the conference announced Wednesday morning. It’s only the second time in program history (both in the past three seasons) the Fighting Irish have swept the conference’s top player and freshman awards in the same year — in 2013, Skylar Diggins garnered BIG EAST Conference Player of the Year accolades, while Loyd was tapped as the BIG EAST Freshman of the Year.
This also marks just the fifth time in ACC women’s basketball history that one school was swept the ACC Player and Freshman of the Year awards in the same season. Maryland was the last to do so in 2009 with Kristi Toliver (Player of the Year) and Lynetta Kizer (Freshman of the Year), while Duke was the last current ACC school to pull off that feat in 2001 with Georgia Schweitzer (Player) and Alana Beard (Freshman).
“This is such a blessing and to earn this award along with Bri (Turner) makes it even more special,” Loyd said. “It wouldn’t have been possible without our teammates and coaches supporting and pushing us every day in practice. All 13 players, the entire coaching staff and our tremendous fans — we celebrate and share these awards together, but we all know that we still have more work to do and more goals to achieve down the road.”
“I am so grateful, humbled and honored to be named the ACC Freshman of the Year,” Turner said. “It’s really a group effort, all of us working together and I’m just the one who is taking care of this award on behalf of my team. I’m thankful to my parents, my coaches, my teammates and our fans for their love and support in making my first year at Notre Dame so special.”
“These are two remarkable, outstanding young women and it’s a thrill and a joy to see them recognized in this way,” said Muffet McGraw, Notre Dame’s Karen and Kevin Keyes Family Head Women’s Basketball Coach. “They are so determined and focused, and the hard work they put in throughout the season has shown itself in their play on the floor. We are incredibly proud of Jewell and Brianna and know that the best is still yet to come for both of them.”
This week’s ACC awards were selected through a vote of the ACC’s Blue Ribbon Panel, which consists of designated media members who cover the conference’s 15 institutions, the conference’s 15 head coaches and media relations directors, and other selected national and regional women’s basketball experts. The complete rundown of the 2015 conference award recipients can be found on the ACC’s official web site, theacc.com.
A second set of all-conference honors, as voted on by the ACC head coaches at the end of the regular season, will be released next week.
Loyd is the seventh Notre Dame women’s basketball player to earn conference player of the year recognition — Kayla McBride was the most recent to do so in 2014, earning ACC Player of the Year status from the conference coaches. Prior to that, Diggins took top honors in the program’s final two seasons in the BIG EAST (2012, 2013), while Jacqueline Batteast was the BIG EAST Player of the Year in 2005 and Ruth Riley took the same honor in 2001.
In addition, Karen Robinson was the two-time Midwestern Collegiate Conference (Horizon League) Player of the Year in 1990 and 1991, while Trena Keys was the first Fighting Irish women’s basketball player to garner her league’s top award as a two-time North Star Conference Player of the Year in 1985 and 1986.
Meanwhile, Turner is the fifth player in program history chosen as her conference’s freshman of the year, following in the footsteps of Loyd and her 2013 BIG EAST honor. Batteast also claimed the award in 2002, while Alicia Ratay did likewise in 2000. Current Notre Dame associate coach Beth (Morgan) Cunningham was the first to achieve the feat as the 1994 MCC Newcomer of the Year.
Loyd was a four-time ACC Player of the Week this season, tying Jacqueline Batteast’s 2004-05 program record for conference player-of-the-week selections in one year (Batteast did so while playing in BIG EAST), while being the first ACC player to pull off that feat since 2011-12, when Maryland’s Alyssa Thomas was a four-time honoree (Miami’s Riquana Williams was the last to do so from a current ACC member in 2010-11).
Loyd is one of the leading candidates for every major national player-of-the-year honor, including the Naismith Trophy (for which she also was named a semifinalist on Tuesday), Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Wade Trophy, John R. Wooden Award and Dawn Staley Award, and she was a unanimous choice as the espnW Midseason Player of the Year.
Loyd has started all 30 games this season, averaging career highs of 20.7 points and 3.2 assists per game, plus 5.1 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game with two double-doubles. She also leads the ACC with 17 20-point games this season (tied for third-most in school history), while her school-record four 30-point games also set the ACC standard.
A consensus preseason first-team All-America pick, Loyd ranks among the top 15 in the ACC in four statistical categories — scoring (1st – also 20th in nation), free-throw percentage (4th – career-best .836), assists (11th) and assist/turnover ratio (11th – career-high 1.35). In conference play, she finished fourth in the ACC in scoring (19.0 ppg.) and free-throw percentage (.829), as well as 10th in assist/turnover ratio (1.16), 11th in assists (3.1 apg.) and 15th in steals (1.6 spg.).
Loyd, who ranks ninth on Notre Dame’s single-season scoring list with 621 points and has scored in double figures in 72 of her last 73 games, has been at her best when the stakes have been highest, averaging 26.1 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.9 steals in nine games against Top 25 teams this season. In those nine contests, she has scored at least 20 points eight times, including three 30-point outings — a career-high and school record-tying 41 points at No. 25 DePaul on Dec. 10; 34 points vs. No. 5/6 Tennessee on Jan. 19 at Purcell Pavilion, and 31 points against No. 3 Connecticut on Dec. 6, also at Purcell Pavilion.
Turner, who joined Loyd on the 2014-15 midseason watch lists for the John R. Wooden Award and the Naismith Trophy, has been one of the nation’s top freshmen all season long, tying a school record with six ACC Freshman of the Week honors (a mark first set by Ratay in 1999-2000 and duplicated by Batteast in 2001-02, both in the BIG EAST), while also earning two United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) National Freshman of the Week citations, the first Fighting Irish player ever to be so honored.
She also became the first player in school history and only the sixth in ACC history to earn conference player-of-the-week and freshman-of-the-week accolades on the same day, doing so on Jan. 19 after registering career highs of 29 points, 18 rebounds and seven blocks four days earlier in a win at No. 12/10 North Carolina. With that performance, Turner joined Oklahoma’s Courtney Paris as just the second NCAA Division I player since 1999-2000 to post those numbers in a single game (Paris registered 30 points, 20 rebounds, seven blocks in an overtime loss to Missouri on March 11, 2008, in the first round of the Big 12 Conference Tournament in Kansas City).
Turner has started 26 of the 27 games she has played this season, missing three games in mid-December with a separated shoulder and coming off the bench for a Feb. 26 Senior Night win over Pittsburgh at Purcell Pavilion. She is averaging 14.2 points per game and leads the team with 7.6 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game, plus a .681 field-goal percentage. She also has six double-doubles this season (fifth all-time among Notre Dame freshmen) and six 20-point games to her credit.
Turner has been a fixture among the national and ACC statistical leaders all season, currently leading the country in field-goal percentage and ranking 22nd in blocked shots. Should it hold up, her field-goal percentage would be second-highest in school history and best ever by a freshman (Riley shot .683 from the field in 1998-99), while her 72 blocked shots are seventh on the Notre Dame single-season list and second-most by a Fighting Irish freshman (Shari Matvey had 94 blocks in 1979-80).
On the conference level, Turner ranks in the top 12 in the ACC in four categories — field-goal percentage (1st), blocks (3rd), rebounding (10th) and scoring (12th). In fact, no other ACC freshman currently ranks in the top 12 in more than two of those categories, while only one ACC player (Duke’s Elizabeth Williams) joins Turner in appearing in the top 12 of the ACC rankings in all four categories.
In addition, Turner’s six double-doubles rank second among ACC freshmen and 10th among all ACC players, while her six 20-point games are third among ACC rookies and 10th among all ACC players.
In conference play, Turner led the ACC in field-goal percentage (.686) and ranked second in blocks (2.9 bpg.), while also finishing seventh in rebounding (8.6 rpg.) and 16th in scoring (14.4 ppg.).
Like Loyd, Turner has been exceptional when the lights have shone brightest this season. In six full games against ranked opponents (not counting her injury-shortened four-minute stretch against No. 15/10 Maryland on Dec. 3, plus ensuing missed games against No. 3 Connecticut and No. 25 DePaul), Turner is averaging 16.8 points, 9.2 rebounds and 5.7 blocks per game with two double-doubles and a staggering .709 field-goal percentage.
Winners of a season-best 14 consecutive games, Notre Dame (28-2, 15-1 ACC) is the top seed for the 2015 ACC Tournament and has earned a double-bye into the quarterfinal round, where it will play at 2 p.m. (ET) Friday at the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, North Carolina, against the winner of the second-round game between eighth-seeded Miami and No. 9 seed Virginia.
Notre Dame’s ACC quarterfinal contest will be televised live to a national cable audience on the ACC-Regional Sports Networks (which includes Comcast Channel 101; check local listings for additional presenting affiliates), as well as worldwide on ESPN3 and the WatchESPN app. The Notre Dame Radio Network broadcast also can be heard live in the South Bend area on Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) and free of charge worldwide on the official Fighting Irish athletics multimedia platform, WatchND.
For more information on the Notre Dame women’s basketball program, sign up to follow the Fighting Irish women’s basketball Twitter pages (@NDsidMasters 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