By Philip Hersh, Tribune reporter
April 5, 2013
Notre Dame guard Jewell Loyd was named Thursday as National Freshman of the Year by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association.
Loyd, a Niles West product from Lincolnwood, earlier had been named Big East Freshman of the Year.
She averaged 12.5 points per game while logging the second-highest number of minutes (31 per game) for the No. 2 Irish, who meet No. 3 Connecticut in Sunday's NCAA semifinal in New Orleans. Only All-America point guard Skylar Diggins played more (31.8).
"Jewell has really added another weapon for us that maybe we haven't had in the past," Diggins said in the USBWA statement announcing Loyd's award. "She's so athletic, she can jump out of the gym, she can shoot the three, and she's not afraid to get inside and finish with contact."
The 5-foot-10 Loyd has scored on several alley-oop passes late in the season. She had her season-high 27 points in the NCAA opener against Tennessee-Martin and her breakout game (24 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists) against Baylor - the lone Irish loss this season - on national TV in early December.
Loyd is the second Irish freshman to win the award, following Jacqueline Batteast in 2002. She will be honored at the New Orleans Arena prior to Sunday's game.
"Her biggest improvement over the season - and the thing we needed most from her - is her defense," Irish coach Muffet McGraw said in a recent Tribune interview. "We have assigned her the other team's best player, and she has become our lockdown defender."
McGraw was named USBWA Coach of the Year after taking an Irish team that replaced two starters and its top reserve to a third straight Final Four appearance. The Irish (35-1) won their first Big East tournament title and take a school record 30-game win streak into their fourth meeting of the season with Connecticut.
It is the second time McGraw has won the coach of the year award.
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