- Michelle Smith, Contributor, espnW.com
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Editor's note: Charlie Creme, Graham Hays, Michelle Smith and Mechelle Voepel each vote to determine espnW's national player of the week, which is awarded every Monday of the women's college basketball season.
If there's not a doubt which program has earned the distinction as the No. 1 women's basketball team in the land, there's barely any discussion about No. 2, either.
Notre Dame has taken on all comers, run its record to 21-0 and, behind senior Kayla McBride, the Irish cemented their status as the class of the new-look ACC this week.
McBride's 23-point, 11-rebound effort against No. 3 Duke on Sunday in Durham, which followed her 20-point effort against Maryland on Monday and a team-leading 18 points against Virginia Tech on Thursday, propelled the Irish senior guard to earn espnW's national player of the week honor.
McBride's performance helped Notre Dame assume the lead at the top of the ACC standings and hand the Blue Devils their first home conference loss since Joanne P. McCallie's first season at Duke in 2008. The Irish's 88-67 victory snapped Duke's 42-game home win streak in conference play.
Sunday, Blue Devils coach Joanne P. McCallie called McBride "the best guard in the country."
And though Baylor's Odyssey Sims might have something to say about that, McBride has been a scorer, a battler and an emotional center for a team that recovered remarkably well from the graduation of its defining player in Skylar Diggins. McBride, fellow senior Natalie Achonwa and sophomore Jewell Loyd look prepared to send the Irish to their fourth straight Final Four.
McBride, an All-American from Erie, Pa., is averaging 17.1 points and 5.7 rebounds a game, the Irish's second-leading scorer behind sophomore Loyd.
McBride, who recorded her first double-double of the season, was 9-of-15 from the floor against the Blue Devils, who have won the past four ACC championships. She also grabbed a career-high 11 rebounds and finished with five assists. Her 14 first-half points helped the Irish take a 14-point halftime lead.
McBride moved into a tie for 10th place on the Notre Dame career scoring list with 1,566 points, matching Charel Allen's total from 2004-08.
Sunday's victory continued an impressive stretch for the Irish, who have defeated Tennessee, Maryland and Duke on the road in the past two weeks. Their 21-0 record is two short of the best start in school history. The 23-0 start to the 2000-01 season ended with the program's first national title.
"We're going to have some tough games like that going down the road," McBride said after Sunday's win. "We're in a new conference, new environments. I just think it's a good challenge for us."
The next week holds games against Florida State (Notre Dame's fourth straight road game against a ranked opponent) and Syracuse (at home).
12dBonnie D. Ford