Dec. 1, 2013
TORONTO (AP) – Natalie Achonwa joked that her Notre Dame teammates say she is from the whole country of Canada, not just from her hometown of Guelph or the province of Ontario.
The Canadian-born senior had 11 points and 10 rebounds to help No. 5 Notre Dame rout Duquesne 100-61 on Sunday at Ryerson University.
“Playing the national anthems for both countries was really an emotional moment,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “I thought that was a great thing, and I’m really glad we were able to come and bring Natalie home.”
Achonwa, who has played on the Canadian national team and grew up in the area, was thrilled to share Notre Dame basketball with family and friends.
The energy level in the gym was audibly different when she took an elbow to the eye at 5:52 of the second half and limped off the court. Achonwa returned to cheers from the crowd after the gash was treated to record her 21st career double-double.
The Olympian hoped young players with NCAA ambitions were among the sellout crowd of 933 at Mattamy Athletic Centre.
“It makes me really happy,” Achonwa said of basketball’s growth in Canada. “When I was going through the recruiting process, I didn’t get to see other Canadians firsthand who had gone to the NCAA and had been successful.”
Achonwa is the first international player in the Notre Dame program’s 37-year history. She reached the 1,000-point milestone as a junior.
Kayla McBride scored 13 of her 22 points in the first half to help the Irish take a 47-22 lead at the break. She and Jewell Loyd combined for 11 points during a 17-4 run to open the second half that put the game away. McBride credited work in the gym for Notre Dame’s aggressive attack. The team was 42 for 69 and held a 43-29 edge in rebounds.
“It’s very obvious to see that (Notre Dame) is just so physical with you. I was hoping to keep the rebound totals close because they do rebound the ball so exceptionally well,” Dukes coach Dan Burt said.
The teams met for the first time in two decades, last playing a pair of games in 1993. The Irish are 3-0 in the renewed series.
“When we scheduled this game over two years ago, we wanted to challenge our program and see where our program was,” Burt said. “I’m disappointed in our showing today, but I still believe we have a very good basketball team.”
Forward Wumi Agunbiade, an Ontario native, led the Dukes with 23 points. She had 14 of the team’s 22 points in the first half. She is one of four Canadians on the Duquesne roster with Oditte Odisho, Jose-Ann Johnson and Brianna Thomas.
“It’s so rare for the international kid to get that opportunity to go home and play in front of their family and friends,” Burt said. “As a senior at Duquesne University, you can count on being able to go back to your hometown to play.”
Fellow senior Orsi Szecsi scored 20 with seven rebounds, but the rest of the Dukes were largely unproductive. Duquesne’s reserved added just five points.
“(Wumi’s) a very good basketball player. Unfortunately we didn’t have the crew around her to give her some support.”
Burt would like to return to Toronto for Johnson and Odisho’s final season in 2014.
As the court was stripped of its NCAA markings, McGraw again praised her class of seniors.
“We’ll see at the end of the year it’s the best in school history,” she said.
From the other end of the podium, McBride whispered to Achonwa: “Yes, it is.”
— ND —
POST GAME NOTES: Notre Dame is off to a 6-0 start for the third time in the past six seasons and the seventh time in program history (the 6-0 start matching the fifth-best debut to a season, and best since the 2010-11 club opened 15-0) … the Fighting Irish have won their last six regular-season games played outside the continental United States, adding Sunday’s win to a 3-0 sweep at the 2009 Paradise Jam (in the U.S. Virgin Islands) and a 2-0 mark at the 2011 Junkanoo Jam (in the Bahamas) — and these don’t even include the team’s 3-0 records on their European tours in 2009 (France and Italy) and 2013 (England and Spain) … Notre Dame topped 100 points for the first time this season, and first since Dec. 31, 2012 (a 128-55 win over Saint Francis-Pa. at Purcell Pavilion) … it also the second time in as many seasons the Fighting Irish have reached triple digits on a neutral floor, having defeated Alabama A&M 100-39, on Dec. 19, 2012, in the first round of the World Vision Classic at Cox Pavilion in Las Vegas … coupled with the Notre Dame men’s basketball team’s 101-67 win at home over Cornell earlier in the afternoon, it marked the first time in school history both Fighting Irish basketball teams scored 100 points on the same day … for the second consecutive game, Notre Dame had a season-high five players scored in double figures … the Fighting Irish made 42 field goals, tying for seventh-most in school history and most since Dec. 31, 2012, when Notre Dame sank 47 baskets against Saint Francis (Pa.) … the Fighting Irish shot better than 60 percent for the second time this season (season-high .629 in the opener against UNC Wilmington on Nov. 9) … conversely, the Fighting Irish held Duquesne to an opponent season-low one three-point basket (and .111 three-point percentage), notable since the Dukes came into the contest shooting .375 from beyond the arc … Notre Dame finished with a double-digit advantage in the rebounding column for the fifth time in six games this season, holding its opponent to fewer than 30 rebounds for the fourth time this year … Notre Dame rises to 24-13 (.649) all-time in its first game after the Thanksgiving holiday, including a 20-7 (.741) mark in the Muffet McGraw era and an active seven-game winning streak (as well as wins in nine of its last 10 post-Thanksgiving contests) … Notre Dame moves to 3-0 all-time against Duquesne, posting its largest point total, margin of victory and fewest points allowed in the abbreviated series with the Dukes (the teams were playing for the first time since the 1992-93 season, Duquesne’s lone year alongside the Fighting Irish in the Midwestern Collegiate Conference, now known as the Horizon League) … Notre Dame is 45-13 (.776) all-time against the current Atlantic 10 Conference alignment, with a 25-7 (.781) record away from home … the Fighting Irish have won their last 11 games against current A-10 schools, dating back to a 1995 loss at La Salle … senior guard/tri-captain Kayla McBride’s season-high 22 points give her an even 1,300 for her career, lifting her past Megan Duffy (1,290 from 2002-06) into 19th place on the Notre Dame career scoring list … senior forward/tri-captain Natalie Achonwa collected her first double-double of the season, and 21st of her career, tying her with Heidi Bunek (1985-89) for 10th place on the Fighting Irish career double-doubles chart … sophomore guard Michaela Mabrey scored in double figures for the fourth time this season; she had three double-digit scoring games her entire rookie season in 2012-13 (covering 30 games) … the Fighting Irish bench corps did its part again, scoring at least 30 points for the fifth time this season.