The Duquesne Dukes women’s team for the first time ever will play an international regular season game. The game against #5 Notre Dame is the highlight of the out-of-conference portion of the schedule, and will be played in Ontario at the former Maple Leaf Gardens (now renamed Ryerson University’s Mattamy Athletic Centre). It will be a coming home party for four Dukes, including all-Atlantic 10 senior forward Wumi Agunbiade. Starting center Jose-Ann Johnson, injured guard Oditte Odisho, and redshirt candidate Brianna Thomas are all also from Ontario.
Scouting the Fighting Irish:
Skylar Diggins finally graduated last year. She was one of the Big 3 players from last year along with Brittney Griner and Elena Delle Donne, and was the clear #1 point guard in college hoops. While losing Diggins was a huge blow, Notre Dame returns all four remaining starters and is ranked #5 in the country after making the Final Four each of the last three seasons.
Notre Dame’s best returning player is sophomore Jewell Loyd (5-9 guard). She’s a combo point/off guard who can do everything exceptionally well. Loyd is one of the game’s best at creating her own shot and has the speed and agility to dominate a game. If Burt’s looking to go uptempo and press for the Dukes, Loyd is good enough to singlehandedly break down the Dukes 2-2-1 fullcourt trap. She also has exceptional court awareness and uses her athleticism to get open shots for others. The only knocks on Jewell are that she struggles a bit at times turning it over too much as well as sometimes in my opinion gambles too much on the defensive end, but that’s probably just a nitpick and me looking for a weakness in an awesome all-around player. For a team in Duquesne that’s struggled when matched up against quick, athletic type guards, Loyd is a huge matchup problem.
Kayla McBride (5-11 guard) is Notre Dame’s second best returner in my opinion. K-Mac (McBride’s nickname) was the player other than Diggins that exceptionally shined for Notre Dame in the Notre Dame/UConn regular season game. McBride’s game is a tough, physical one, particularly on the defensive end. On offense, McBride has it all. She’s a very dangerous three point shooter, so you have to go out and guard her. But McBride also can drive right by you if you play too close. McBride is from what I’ve seen among the country’s best midrange jumpshooters as well.
Natalie Achonwa (6-3 senior forward) is making a return trip to Ontario as well as the four Dukes. Achonwa, the first ever international recruit for Notre Dame, was the Big East leader in double-doubles last year. Achonwa is a very good defender inside in addition to crashing the boards hard. Natalie has excellent dribbling and passing skills for a big and a complete range of shots on offense from the low block as well as the foul line.
Ariel Braker (6-1 senior) is the other post starter for the Irish. Ariel is playing for her defense, not her offense as the Irish have plenty of offensive weapons as it is. The lanky forward is exceptional in doubling trapped players when Notre Dame does elect to trap, and her overall defense is top notch. She’s one of those glue players championship teams need.
Lindsay Allen (5-7 freshman guard) also starts for Notre Dame. A top 25 recruit per ESPN, Allen leads the team in assists and steals as well as averages 10.8 points a game.
The other thing to love about this Notre Dame team that likely won’t be required in the Duquesne game is the clutch factor. When watching Notre Dame, in both Jewell Lloyd and K-Mac seemingly elevate their game to the circumstances. It’s great watching their competitiveness even as an anti-Notre Dame fan.
The Two Things I’m looking for:
Keep the game respectable for a half. While I’m not expecting to win, it would be nice to stay in the game for a half…
A relatively turnover free game from April Robinson. When put up against quick, athletic type guards April has seemingly turned it over a lot. Watching April value the ball today would be extremely nice.
Notre Dame is much too good for practically any team in the country. Even if Duquesne plays it’s A+ game and Notre Dame’s its F game, Notre Dame still likely wins. Notre Dame big, 81-59