Notre Dame women's basketball: McGraw: Irish just too nice

CURT RALLO
CRallo@sbtinfo.com

SOUTH BEND - Notre Dame women’s basketball coach Muffet McGraw has an idea who can help her team ratchet up the nastiness.

“Maybe we need to have our players hang around with Skylar,” McGraw said of former Irish All-American Skylar Diggins, who took toughness and the Irish to great heights during her legendary career.

McGraw liked the fact that her team would knock down players from California (Pa.) in battling for rebounds or chasing after loose balls in Wednesday’s 118-49 romp of an exhibition game on Wednesday at Purcell Pavilion.

McGraw didn’t like the fact that her team would then hustle over and apologetically help the California (Pa.) players back to their feet.

“We’re really nice,” McGraw said in a tone that made it clearly understood that nasty, not nice, is a commodity on the court. “That’s what I’ve learned. We’re very, very nice. We’re just sweet. It’s a very, very sweet team. They’re very cordial to each other, on the court. That’s something that I would like to change, really quickly. Their personalities are very nice.

“I’d like them to get between the lines and be mean, meaner. We’re working on it.”

McGraw wants the kind of player who will unleash a get-in-your-face tirade to get the Irish attack rolling if the situation calls for it. She wants players who will unleash a torrent of fiery words that pack a punch to get a message across. She doesn’t want smiles and soft-spoken prose.

“Apparently, it’s not easy to change,” McGraw bristled about the niceness of the Irish. “We’ve had the personality that was able to do that when they got on the court. Everybody we had, Brittany Mallory, Natalie Novosel, Devereaux Peters, Becca Bruszewski, they could get in between the lines and really be physical. They were going to knock you down, and they weren’t going to help you up.

“This team, they’re going to help you up. It’s not in their personality to be that way. We’re trying to work on that, but it’s hard when it’s not your personality. They obviously don’t take the personality from the coach. It’s clearly coming from them.”

Notre Dame sophomore Jewell Loyd, who scored 27 points against California (Pa.), said the Irish have to engineer a personality switch.

“I definitely agree with coach,” Loyd said. “We need to get meaner. We have it at times, but we just need to make it consistently.”

Frosh shine

Notre Dame enjoyed a phenomenal debut from its freshmen starters, 6-foot-3 post Taya Reimer, and 5-foot-7 point guard Lindsay Allen.

Reimer was 11-of-11 field-goal shooting and 5-of-5 on free throws for 27 points.

Allen scored 13 points, and had nine assists against only one turnover.

“Taya was all around the basket,” McGraw said. “She got great position. We got her the ball right where she wanted it. She moved without the ball. She looked to post up a little bit more. She was really successful, and the free throws, too. That was big for her.

“Offensively, Lindsay really understands the game. She’ll take it from the timeout to the court as well as anybody we’ve ever had as a freshman. She does a great job of listening to what we’re trying to run, and go out on the court and try to execute it. She’s smart. I thought she looked for Jewell early and tried to get her going, tried to get her a lot of shots, and she obviously looked for Taya a lot, too. I was really pleased with the pace she had us at. I thought she made really good decisions with the ball, and overall, it was just a really, really good game offensively.”

Allen said that the Irish system and personnel has allowed her to adapt quickly.

“I definitely didn’t want that one turnover, but nine assists, one turnover is fine,” Allen said of her line. With the offense that we have, the transition game that we have, it makes it a lot easier to just kick the ball up.

“When you have future All-Americans on your team, that makes it a lot easier to learn the offense. They really help me with my game, especially Kayla McBride and Natalie Achonwa, knowing where to pass the ball, knowing where they’re going to be on the court.”

Post presence

With senior post Natalie Achonwa sidelined for 4-to-6 weeks with a knee injury, McGraw is looking for help inside. Reimer displayed her potential to contribute, but without additional power inside, the Irish will be looking at a four-guard offense.

“We need a 1-2 punch in the post, and right now, we’ve just got a one punch,” McGraw said. “Kristina Nelson gave us some good minutes. When she gets in shape, I think she’ll be able to really help us.

“I would like Markisha Wright to develop into that other punch,” McGraw said. “I think she’s had ample opportunity to do that this year, especially with (Natalie Achonwa and Ariel Braker) out. We’re really looking for someone to step into that void. I’m not sure anybody has distinguished themselves there.”

Injury update

Seniors Kayla McBride and Ariel Braker are both expected to practice on Saturday and be ready for the season opener on Saturday, Nov. 9, at 1 p.m. (ET) against UNC Wilmington at Purcell Pavilion.

McBride missed the exhibition game with a sprained right ankle, and Braker missed the game with soreness in her knees. Both were starters for the Irish last season.

Notre Dame's Hannah Huffman, left, guards California's (Pa.) Emma Mahady during the women's basketball game on Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013, inside the Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center on the campus of the University of Notre Dame in South Bend. SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN