March 2, 2016
By Chris Masters
NOTRE DAME, Ind. — One day after five University of Notre Dame women’s basketball players received all-Atlantic Coast Conference awards for their play this season, two members of the Fighting Irish program collected even higher honors.
Sophomore forward Brianna Turner (Pearland, Texas/Manvel) was chosen as the 2016 ACC Defensive Player of the Year, while Notre Dame’s Karen and Kevin Keyes Family Head Women’s Basketball Coach Muffet McGraw earned the 2016 ACC Coach of the Year award, the league office announced Wednesday.
Sophomore forward Brianna Turner is one of three players this season to rank among the top 15 nationally in field-goal percentage (.618) and blocked shots (3.1 bpg.), posting ACC-best numbers in both categories.
Turner, a two-time first-team all-ACC selection, is the third Fighting Irish women’s basketball player to receive a conference defensive player-of-the-year trophy, and the first since Devereaux Peters earned the BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year award in 2011 and 2012. Ruth Riley also claimed that honor during each of her final three seasons at Notre Dame (1999-2001).
Turner copped this year’s award through a vote of the 15 ACC head coaches, who cast ballots for ACC’s all-conference, all-freshman and all-defensive teams, as well as its Sixth Player of the Year, at the conclusion of the regular season. The coaches’ All-ACC squads will be released next week.
Meanwhile, this marks the third time in four years, and the seventh time in McGraw’s career that she has been named a conference coach of the year, covering five different leagues. She previously was honored in 1983 (East Coast Conference, while coaching at Lehigh University), as well as six times during her 29-year career at Notre Dame – 1988 (North Star Conference), 1991 (Midwestern Collegiate Conference/Horizon League), 2001 and 2013 (BIG EAST), and 2014 and 2016 (ACC).
The ACC Coach of the Year award, like Tuesday’s initial slate of all-conference teams, was 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. Several other ACC specialty awards that also were announced Wednesday, including Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year, can be found on the ACC’s official web site, theacc.com.
Despite missing six games with a shoulder injury early in the season, Turner has been one of the ACC’s most consistent players all year long, leading the conference in field-goal percentage (.618 ÃƒÆ’Â¢ÃƒÂ¢’Â¬” also fifth in nation) and blocked shots (3.1 bpg. ÃƒÆ’Â¢ÃƒÂ¢’Â¬” also 13th in nation), while ranking 12th in scoring (14.3 ppg.) and 13th in rebounding (7.0 rpg.) with two double-doubles.
A member of the Wooden Award Late Season Top 20 List and Naismith Trophy Midseason Top 30 List, Turner was equally strong during conference games, leading the ACC in field-goal percentage (.658) and blocks (2.9 bpg.), while ranking eighth in scoring (15.4 ppg.) and 12th in rebounding (7.3 rpg.).
After blocking 89 blocks as a rookie last year, Turner has recorded 72 blocked shots this season, already standing eighth on Notre Dame’s single-season blocks list. In fact, she joins Riley as the only Fighting Irish players ever to post multiple 70-block seasons – Riley did so during each of her four years under the Golden Dome from 1997-98 through 2000-01.
Perhaps Turner’s greatest value is shown in Notre Dame’s team defensive success when she has been in uniform and the effect when she was sidelined with her injury. In the 23 games Turner has played this season, the Fighting Irish are allowing 21 fewer points per game (55.8 ppg. vs. 76.8 ppg.) and limited opponents to a .347 field-goal percentage, more than 10 percent lower than when Turner was absent (.458).
Muffet McGraw (back row, second from left; pictured after winning her 800th career game on Jan. 3 at Pittsburgh) has been named conference Coach of the Year seven times in five different leagues during her 34-year Hall of Fame career, including two of Notre Dame’s three seasons in the ACC (2014 and 2016).
One of 14 finalists in the Class of 2016 for induction in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, McGraw led Notre Dame to its third consecutive outright ACC regular-season title in 2015-16, navigating the Fighting Irish through a host of challenges.
These hurdles included the loss of two starters from last year’s team that played for the NCAA title, notably leading scorer, All-America guard and 2015 WNBA Rookie of the Year Jewell Loyd. In addition, Notre Dame had to deal with a preseason knee injury to freshman guard Ali Patberg (Columbus, Ind./Columbus North) that ended her year before it began, and was asked to play without Turner, the ACC Preseason Player of the Year, for a critical six-game stretch during the non-conference schedule, a gauntlet that included three ranked opponents (Ohio State, Connecticut, DePaul) and a fourth (UCLA) that entered the polls two days after it played the Fighting Irish.
Through it all, McGraw has displayed steady, firm leadership, piloting Notre Dame to a 28-1 record and the program’s third 16-0 record in conference play during the past four seasons, including two of three years in the ACC. The Fighting Irish also are 8-1 against Top 25 teams this season, not counting the win over UCLA on Thanksgiving weekend in the Bahamas – the Bruins have been ranked ever since that game, currently standing 12th in the Associated Press poll and 14th in the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association/USA Today poll.
In addition, Notre Dame currently ranks in the top 25 in six NCAA statistical categories, including five top-10 rankings – field goal percentage (3rd – .495), three-point field-goal percentage (4th – .404), scoring margin (5th ÃƒÆ’Â¢ÃƒÂ¢’Â¬” +19.3 ppg.), assists (9th ÃƒÆ’Â¢ÃƒÂ¢’Â¬” 18.1 apg.), scoring offense (10th ÃƒÆ’Â¢ÃƒÂ¢’Â¬” 79.5 ppg.) and assist/turnover ratio (22nd ÃƒÆ’Â¢ÃƒÂ¢’Â¬” 1.21).
Winners of a season-best 21 consecutive games, Notre Dame (28-1, 16-0 ACC) is the top seed for the 2016 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 Duke 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, produced by Raycom Sports (a television package that includes South Bend’s Comcast Channel 101; check local listings or theacc.com for additional presenting affiliates), as well as worldwide on ESPN3 and WatchESPN. It also can be heard on the radio in South Bend on Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) as well as free of charge around the globe through the official Fighting Irish athletics multimedia platform, WatchND (watchnd.tv) and the WatchND app.
For more information on the Notre Dame women’s basketball program, visit the main women’s basketball page on the University’s official athletics web site (UND.com/ndwbb), sign up to follow the Fighting Irish women’s basketball Twitter and Instagram pages (@ndwbb), like the program on Facebook or register for the Irish ALERT text-messaging system through the “Fan Center” pulldown menu on the front page at UND.com.
— ND —
Chris Masters, associate athletics communications director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 2001 and coordinates all media efforts for the Notre Dame women’s basketball and women’s golf programs. A native of San Francisco, California, Masters is a 1996 graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University, earned his master’s degree from Kansas State University in 1998, and currently serves on the Board of Directors for the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA).