SOUTH BEND – First test outside the classroom for the Notre Dame women’s basketball team – passed, successfully.
Notre Dame won’t have to wait long for another basketball exam. The Irish visit Valparaiso at 8 p.m. Monday to meet the Horizon League member Crusaders.
“I was really happy with the way we handled the crowd and showed our poise, especially down the stretch,” said head coach Muffet McGraw Sunday of her team’s victory at a sold-out Frost Arena at South Dakota State Saturday afternoon.
McGraw and the No. 3 Irish women have the “glue” they need in graduate student Madison Cable for road tests, including the Crusaders, 0-1 after losing to Butler on Saturday.
Valparaiso is coached by Tracey Dorow, in her fourth year with Valpo. The Irish will have their eyes on 6-foot senior Jessi Wiedemann and 5-foot-10 sophomore Jasymn Walker. They scored 14 and 13 points respectively against Butler.
The Irish eyes many times will be on Cable.
“She is our glue on both ends of the floor,” McGraw said Sunday.
Cable is everywhere on the court, displaying amazing court awareness and savvy. She can be found making steals, diving for loose balls, taking charges and rebounding on both ends of the floor.
She also can score. Averaging 14.7 points after the first three Notre Dame victories, McGraw would like to see Cable shoot more.
“I don’t like to miss,” Cable said. “But I guess I could take more chances.”
“We need Madison in the game. She is a good 3-point shooter (6-11 to date, .545),” McGraw added.
“I do try to be a student of the game,” Cable said. “As far as I can remember, I have always been around the game. My sisters played and I watched them. I like the game. I have always just wanted to play hard and do all the little things that can help our team.”
Those little things have been instrumental in the first three Irish victories.
McGraw still wants her club to be more aggressive.
“We have to approach these games with more intensity,” she said. “We have to attack the basket more right from the opening tip. We need to get better offensively and mix things up more.”
It has been the Irish defense that has been improving rapidly through the early season. The Irish held Toledo to 39 points and limited the Jackrabbits of South Dakota State to 33 percent shooting on Saturday.
With Cable on a wing, Lindsay Allen at the point, and the Irish strong inside game, that “attack mode” will be a focus early on Monday night against Valparaiso.
“Lindsay is such a good decision maker,” said McGraw of her point guard. "Saturday we just looked to go inside more.”
That move paid off with Allen directing traffic, when the Irish inside trio of Brianna Turner (20), Kathryn Westbeld (10) and Taya Reimer (8) combined for those 38 points. And Cable? She was a huge contributor as well, scoring 14 points.
Helping fill the gap created when Jewell Loyd left a year early to play in the WNBA, Cable doesn’t like to talk about her basketball future. Many feel she has the talent and moxie to play professional basketball.
“I won’t talk about that,'' Cable said. “I just want to focus on what we are doing right now.”
It has been her focus and hustle that has helped the Irish bring along freshmen Arike Ogunbowale and Marina Mabrey and help them fit in with a deep Notre Dame team. Ogunbowale plays without fear and McGraw is hoping Marina Mabrey can help take on some point guard duties.
“It is a lot to put on a freshman, but I think Marina is capable of doing it,” McGraw said. “We just need more time to practice.”
That upcoming practice time will help sophomore Mychal Johnson as well.
“She can really shoot the three (1-1 to date),” said McGraw. “We need to get her more shots.”
But what about Valparaiso?
“We just need to focus like for any road game. We do feed a little off road crowds. It is fun to see how they get silent when we hit our shots,” said Cable. And impressive to watch as Cable scurries to do those “little things” that are so important to a team’s success.
Notre Dame will have little time to rest after Monday’s contest. The Irish will leave Wednesday for Freeport, Bahamas and the Junkaroo Jam Tourney. Notre Dame will play first-time opponent Denver Friday then return to meet either UCLA or Louisiana Tech Saturday. When they return home, talented Ohio State will visit on Wednesday, Dec. 2.