Notre Dame's Turner is exceeding expectations offensively
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) Notre Dame freshman Brianna Turner is a crowd pleaser.
The 6-foot-3 forward from Pearland, Texas, brings the home crowd to its feet with her blocked shots, her fast-break layups and most enthusiastically when she catches a lob pass from a teammate down low and completes the play with an alley-oop layup.
''Plays like that are just amazing plays and we get energy off that,'' Irish forward Taya Reimer said. ''It gives the crowd energy and when they're into it that obviously gives us a lot of energy and we build off that.''
Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw describes Turner as one of the most athletic players she's coached.
''It's both her hands and her feet. She can really elevate, but she has great hands and great timing,'' McGraw said.
McGraw was expecting Turner, who was the Atlantic Coast Conference freshman of the year, to contribute this season with strong defense, solid rebounding and shot blocking. She's been pleasantly surprised that Turner also has chipped in so much offensively, averaging 13.8 points.
''I think she has definitely overachieved this year,'' McGraw said. ''She is just so good around the basket. She is able to jump over people and her percentage and efficiency is phenomenal.''
Turner was surprised when she was informed earlier this season she was leading the nation in shooting, although she knew she was hitting a lot of shots.
''I really wasn't aware that was a stat anyone kept track of,'' Turner said.
Turner is putting up other noteworthy statistics aside from her 66.5 percent shooting from the floor, which would be the second-best season in school history. She has scored 441 points so far this season, the sixth-highest in school history for freshmen, and has a shot at becoming just the third Notre Dame freshman to score 500 points.
Turner also is 29th in the nation in blocked shots with 81, the second-highest total in school history. McGraw predicts Turner will eventually break the school record of 370 blocks set by Ruth Riley, who led the Irish to a national championship in 2001.
She would have even more impressive numbers if she didn't miss three games in December, including a loss to Connecticut, after she separated her shoulder early in the game against Maryland. She still keeps the shoulder wrapped, but says it feels good.
She has 70 blocked shots in 24 games since returning from the injury.
She has been at her best against ranked opponents, averaging 14.9 points, 9.3 rebounds and 4.9 blocks in eight games. Her best game came at then-No. 12 North Carolina, when she had 29 points, 18 rebounds and seven blocked shots in leading the Irish to a 89-79 victory in January.
The Irish (33-2) face Stanford (26-9) Friday in a regional semifinal game in Oklahoma City. It will be the first time the perennial powers have played since Stanford won at Notre Dame en route to winning the national championship in 1992.
The game will pit Stanford's perimeter game against Notre Dame's inside game, which means the Irish will be counting on Turner.
Reimer said Turner's athleticism makes it easier for other Irish players.
''She's just such a threat she draws a lot of attention both offensively and defensively,'' Reimer said.
Turner said the biggest adjustment to college has been getting used to competing with players her own size or bigger. She's hoping to expand on her shooting range next season as well as improving her 60.1 percent free-throw shooting and continue to dominate inside.
Turner said there's no signal or look she gives to teammates for the alley-oop layups.
''Coach just says throw it high, they throw it high and I go get it,'' she said. ''It's fun.''