Fifth-ranked Notre Dame lost three starters to graduation in Brittany Mallory, Natalie Novosel and Devereaux Peters. They accounted for 32.8 points, 16.1 rebounds and 6.4 assists per game last season as the Irish reached the NCAA tournament final for the second straight year.
However, the addition of 5-foot-10 freshman guard Jewell Loyd has helped ease the transition. Heading into today’s showdown with No. 1 UConn at Gampel Pavilion (4 p.m.; CBS), she is averaging 12.8 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.3 steals in 27.5 minutes.
Loyd, who had a season-high 24 points in a 73-61 loss to Baylor Dec. 5, is shooting 50.0 percent from the field and 46.2 percent from 3-point range.
UConn coach Geno Auriemma has been impressed with what he has seen from Loyd.
“I think Jewell Loyd is their best player right now,’’ Auriemma said. “She just makes a lot of things happen for them. Because she’s a great individual talent she can take the ball and score from most parts of the floor. She gives them a different look than say Natalie Novosel did. And she’s different than (Kayla) McBride. She’s different than Mallory. She’s different than anybody they’ve had there in a long, long time. And I think that makes the experience that they lost seem not as drastic because she can get shots. She just gets shots.’’