Notre Dame women's basketball: Irish balancing the stat books so far

South Bend Tribune

Notre Dame women’s basketball coach Muffet McGraw isn’t that concerned about scoring balance, although the Irish had three players in double figures in Monday’s 81-62 victory against Michigan State.

McGraw knows that the No. 6 Irish will get plenty of points from a variety of people in a variety of ways. On Monday, Jewell Loyd led the way with 22 points. Taya Reimer scored 19 and Kayla McBride 15.

Whether it’s from the transition game, attacking the hoop, 3-pointers or power moves off the blocks, the Irish can light up the scoreboard.

What made McGraw especially happy when she looked over the stat sheet Monday was the balance in rebounding and distribution of the basketball.

Reimer had 13 rebounds, McBride and Loyd had nine each, and Ariel Braker added eight.

Notre Dame owned a 52-29 rebounding advantage over the 20th-ranked Spartans. The effort on the offensive boards proved to be a difference-maker for the Irish. They held a 24-8 edge, which lead to a 25-6 margin in second-chance points.

“That’s something that we’ve been talking about, going after those offensive rebounds, not just taking one shot and getting back on defense,” Reimer said. “We talked about really working and trying to get those second-chance points. We put an emphasis on that and really tried to do that.”

Three Irish players had five assists apiece — Reimer, Lindsay Allen and McBride — while Loyd added four.

“I love the balance,” McGraw said. “I think the Princeton offense is an offense that a lot of different people have the ball and the opportunity to get assists. I thought you saw some great passes from a lot of different spots on the floor. That’s the hallmark of the offense. It’s equal opportunity. A lot of people have the ball in their hands and have opportunities to do that.”

Net gain

Notre Dame only managed 34-percent shooting in the first half (13-of-38) but kicked it up to 51 percent in the second half (18-of-35).

“We had a couple of stretches where we missed shots,” McGraw said. “Our shot selection was maybe a little questionable. We took a couple of 1-on-3’s. There were a couple where we shouldn’t have even been looking at the basket.”

Tall order

Notre Dame built leads of 21 and 20 points in the second half, only to see the Spartans cut them to 12 and 11 points, respectively. Credit that to Michigan State’s post players taking advantage of a smaller Irish lineup.

“We had a four-guard lineup at the time and they were throwing it over us,” McGraw said. “We got out of the zone and went man-to-man, because they were beating us on the block in the zone. That was a little area of concern for us. I thought they did a really good job of looking inside.”

Notre Dame’s depth issues inside should be solved when 6-foot-3 starter Natalie Achonwa returns to the lineup next week after being sidelined with a knee injury.

Special talent

Michigan State coach Suzy Merchant would have loved to have seen Reimer in kelly green, rather than lime green.

“Everybody in the country recruited her,” Merchant said. “I think we offered her as a freshman ourselves, and, as time went on, it kind of went a different direction for her.

“She’s a special talent. She’s a big-bodied kid that’s extremely skilled. And in their system, I would guess that she will have plenty of numbers like that. I think her game will enhance as well and these minutes are good for her with Achonwa out. I know Muffet would rather have Natalie out there and it would make a huge difference for them, but at the same time it’s good that she’s having some opportunities early on because she fits extremely well in their system and their style of play. She’s a very tough matchup. Very tough.”


Notre Dame's Jewell Loyd, left, moves by Michigan State's Annalise Pickrel during the women's basketball game against Michigan State on Monday. SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN