NOTRE DAME — In order to dominate in the post, Natalie Achonwa had to play like a guard.
In Notre Dame's 89-72 win over Oklahoma State in the Sweet 16, the Notre Dame senior forward made it a point to rule all aspects of the inside game.
But rather than planting herself in the lane like a towering statue, Achonwa ran alongside the guards in transition and dished out assists down low. At one point, Achonwa caught the ball in transition and flipped behind her back to teammate Madison Cable, who finished with a layup.
"She was running the floor, scoring in transition, we were finding her inside off the pick and roll," head coach Muffet McGraw said. "She just looked so determined. She was demanding the ball and we were giving it to her."
Not only did Achonwa lead Notre Dame with 10-of-13 shooting for 23 points, but she also grabbed seven rebounds (five offensive), dished out six assists, registered five blocks and swapped two steals. Oklahoma State meekly attempted to finish the half off with a layup, but Achonwa swatted the shot away at the buzzer, sending the crowd into a frenzy.
Her conditioning and speed were so impressive that Oklahoma State coach Jim Littell likened Achonwa to a Thoroughbred.
"I don't know if there's many post players in the country that will pass the ball as well as that young lady does," Littell said. "If you turn your head, she's going to zip right on by your ear and hit somebody for an open layup or two-footer. She has more dimensions to her game than a lot of post players in the country."
Achonwa said Notre Dame doesn't emphasize an extra focus on conditioning in practice. Rather, the Irish spend so much time on their transition game that Achonwa has spent four years keeping pace with Skylar Diggins, Kayla McBride and now Jewell Loyd.
"It's keep up or get left behind," she said. "It's keeping up with the guards. Transition drills serve two purposes."
The Irish now set their sights on second-seeded Baylor in an Elite Eight matchup Monday. The Bears were the last team to beat Notre Dame at home in a Dec. 5, 2012, rematch of the 2012 NCAA women's national championship game, which Baylor also won.