March 3, 2015
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – After earning its fourth consecutive outright regular-season conference title (and second in as many years of Atlantic Coast Conference membership), the No. 2 University of Notre Dame women’s basketball team was recognized for its efforts with a handful of individual honors on Tuesday, as the ACC office announced this year’s all-conference and all-freshman teams.
Fighting Irish junior guard Jewell Loyd (Lincolnwood, Ill./Niles West) and freshman forward Brianna Turner (Pearland, Texas/Manvel) earned spots on the 10-player All-ACC First Team. Notre Dame and North Carolina were the only conference schools with two All-ACC selections this season, while Turner was the lone freshman named to the All-ACC First Team, the first Fighting Irish rookie to cop all-conference honors since Loyd was an honorable mention choice in 2013 (and the first to make one of the top two league teams since Skylar Diggins was a second-team all-BIG EAST Conference pick in 2010).
It also was no surprise when Turner was chosen for the All-ACC Freshman Team that was revealed Tuesday. She is the first Fighting Irish player to garner all-freshman accolades since Loyd appeared on the 2013 BIG EAST All-Freshman Team.
The conference will unveil its specialty awards — Player of the Year, Freshman of the Year, Coach of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year and Sixth Player of the Year — in separate announcements on Wednesday.
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 all-conference and all-freshman teams 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.
This marks the eighth consecutive season Notre Dame has had multiple players earn all-conference recognition. For Loyd, it is her second first-team selection in as many seasons, and the third all-conference honor of her career, following her 2013 honorable mention all-BIG EAST accolade. She becomes the 13th Fighting Irish player in program history to earn three all-conference awards and the 14th to collect multiple first-team all-league citations during their careers, stretching back to the program’s previous affiliations with the BIG EAST (1995-2013), Midwestern Collegiate (1988-95) and North Star (1983-88) conferences.
With this season’s first-team selections for Loyd and Turner, it also represents the 12th consecutive year, and 18th time in the past 20 seasons that the Fighting Irish have had at least one player garner first-team all-conference status. In fact, in head coach Muffet McGraw’s 28 seasons as head coach at Notre Dame, covering four conference affiliations (ACC, BIG EAST, Midwestern Collegiate and North Star), the Fighting Irish have had at least one first-team all-conference selection an astounding 25 times (all but 1993, 1998 and 2003).
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.
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 — 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 Alicia 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 (Ruth 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 or theacc.com 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 (watchnd.tv)
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