TOLEDO — Arizona State women’s basketball coach Charli Turner Thorne worried about Notre Dame’s off-the-ball movement and built her game plan around stopping it.
The Irish thought cutting was the perfect antidote to the Sun Devils’ defense.
Top-seeded Notre Dame won that strategic tug of war, and won the game, too. An 84-67 victory Monday moved the Irish into the Sweet 16.
Forward Natalie Achonwa, who had 25 points on 8-of-10 shooting, was a primary beneficiary of the motion plays.
“We thought she had an advantage speedwise,” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. “We thought she could put it on the floor and drive by them. We were looking for her to get it on the move or off the dribble.”
Receiving feeds around the basket, Achonwa put up good numbers on close-range shots and earned 12 free throws, making nine.
“We were able to look for the backdoors,” she said. “Guards did a great job finding me. Getting to the line was a focus. Cutting and getting open as quickly as I could really helped.”
Jewell Loyd noticed Sunday when unbeaten Wichita State lost in the men’s bracket.
After Notre Dame pushed its record to 34-0, Loyd and her teammates learned that No. 2 seed Duke women lost.
“So many upsets,” Loyd said. “People are playing with so much energy. It’s the tournament.”