SOUTH BEND – Irish fans said goodbye last season to Skylar Diggins, who perhaps meant more to the Notre Dame women’s basketball program than any other player in its history.
It won’t be much easier to part ways with Kayla McBride, Natalie Achonwa and Ariel Braker today when the seniors play their final game at Purcell Pavilion.
The winning trio was a part of back-to-back national finalists in 2011 and 2012, a Final Four appearance last season and now a squad that is in the Elite Eight and – to borrow a team slogan – not done yet.
McBride, who holds sixth place on the school’s all-time scoring list, said seizing a Final Four berth on campus would constitute her favorite memory.
It would be special, McBride said. My teammates and coaches, I care about a lot. We’ve been through so much. Going out, it would be the best memory of my whole basketball career to date.
Rather than grow wistful over her home finale, Achonwa – whose 955 rebounds are fifth-most in school history – is instead appreciative. Not many seniors conclude their home schedules with an NCAA tournament game.
We’re excited, Achonwa said. You look at it as a positive to have one more in front of the fans.
Forget about it
The last team to beat the Irish in South Bend? You’d have to think back to a 73-61 loss to Baylor on Dec. 5, 2012.
Not that Notre Dame wants to recall much of that one.
The No. 1 thing I remember is that we lost, McBride said. It’s not a good feeling. I don’t think it’s a revenge thing. It’s in the back in of our mind.
Rookie vs. vet
Baylor’s 5-foot-11 Nina Davis, averaging 15.2 points and 8.9 rebounds, faces significantly older opponents inside.
The freshman forward will go up against Achonwa and Braker most of the time.
It doesn’t really matter, Davis said. At this point, experience is not the reason we’re here.
Achonwa hinted she might be able to use her crafty, veteran knowledge.
In all games, it’s trying to think one step ahead, Achonwa said.