Natalie Achonwa couldn't have asked for a better start to the NCAA Tournament. She scored 22 points in the opening game of the Big Dance on Sunday, including a 2nd half layup that gave her exactly 1,000 career points.
"Yeh, I'm definitely very blessed to be a part of the Notre Dame 1,000 point club," Achonwa said Monday in Iowa City, where the Irish are preparing to face host Iowa in the 2nd round of the NCAA Tournament on Tuesday. "But I think its something that I will definitely cherish but put on the side for now since we still have some games to go in the tournament."
With the graduation of Dev Peters, Achonwa is certainly a huge factor for Notre Dame if it wants to make a run back to a 3rd straight national title game. She's taken her game to a new level and a lot of that can be credited to her playing in the Olympics with Team Canada this past summer.
"I think it really helped a lot--a shot of confidence," Irish coach Muffet McGraw says. "Youngest player on the team and Canada did better than they ever have done before. I feel she contributed quite a bit to that. What an experience for her and came back with a whole different attitude."
"It definitely has helped me with my confidence this year," Achonwa says. "And my teammates and coaches helping me fill the void in what we lost with Dev gone. I think its just about being more aggressive this year and taking advantage of some of the skills that I have."
Achonwa is a great presence inside and her teammates rave about her.
"When she's in the game, we look different and when she's out of the game--we look different," Skylar Diggins says. "She's just done a great job and playing her best basketball right now."