Notre Dame women's basketball: Irish respond to latest challenge

South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND -- If you can’t run with the big girls, get out of the gym.

DePaul tried to street-ball Notre Dame into submission Tuesday night.

Nope, sorry. Takes more than a little run-and-gun to fluster the Irish.

Notre Dame’s 92-76 win over the Blue Demons was another frame of reference this new — and really pretty good — version of the Irish will have to draw on as a tough season unfolds.

No substitute for experience.

The pluses:

  • A 58-33 edge in rebounds.
  • An 18-5 run to start the second half that turned a four-point halftime advantage into a blowout.

Twenty-two assists.

  • The minuses:
  • Twenty-two turnovers.
  • Ten missed free throws.

Seven uncontested baskets allowed, five in the first half when the game was still in doubt.

“We tried to work on (the up-tempo game) in practice, but we couldn’t get our scout team to make enough shots,” said Irish coach Muffet McGraw. “We thought, ‘We’re doing a pretty good job, they’re not making shots.’ When we got into this game, they made those shots. We got caught flat-footed quite a bit.”

Notre Dame was challenged to switch gears from a methodical game at Pennsylvania Saturday to Tuesday’s track meet.

“We did enough good things to win, but we don’t want to outscore people to win,” McGraw said.

Of course, the Irish have the horses if it comes down to that. McDonald’s gives away free Big Macs to everyone in the crowd every time Notre Dame scores at least 88 points.

The fast-food chain could take a hit this season.

A look behind the numbers reveals just how good this team can be.

The box score will show the Irish shot 49 percent (32 of 66) from the field. However, Taya Reimer and Michaela Mabrey threw that out of whack. They combined for 5 of 21 from the field. The rest of the team was 27 of 45 (60 percent).

Reimer (2 of 10), a freshman post, hit 11 of 14 free throws and had 14 rebounds. Many of those came after her own misses from about four feet. Mabrey (3 of 11) hit 3 of her first 4 shots, then missed her last seven.

There’s a unique chemistry with this team that’s not going unnoticed by the rest of women’s college basketball.

“Just to put this into perspective, UConn’s got seven future pros on their roster,” said DePaul coach Doug Bruno. “Notre Dame’s got five. Three are obvious: (Natalie) Achonwa, (Kayla) McBride, and Jewell (Loyd), and two youngsters in (Lindsay) Allen and Reimer, who have a great chance to be pros.

“What Muffet has done such a great job of here at Notre Dame, once they went to (win) that national championship in 2001, she’s done what she’s supposed to do — she’s never looked back.

“She’s really taken this program to ‘Knock on UConn’s door’ heights. I know that sounds crazy since they beat UConn three out of four times last year, but still, UConn’s still sitting there with seven pros and (Notre Dame has) five.

“That what Notre Dame’s program has become. That’s a tribute to the program, Coach McGraw.

“It’s interesting. I don’t want to speak for Coach McGraw, but she’s still finding her way (with this year’s team). You have Skylar (Diggins) here for four years. There’s a fluidity to running the team. That’s a big person to replace.”

Finding the chemistry and the best combinations is the mission McGraw has been on through these first five games. It’s still a work in progress since the Atlantic Coast Conference season is about a month away.

“I feel good about our top eight now,” McGraw said. “We’ve got some great guards. We don’t want them playing 40 minutes a game. I like our rotation.”

Run the floor. Half-court offense. Go down low. Fire from the perimeter.

Doesn’t matter.

These Irish find a way to answer any challenge.



Former Penn standout Kelsey Reynolds of DePaul guards Notre Dame forward Taya Reimer (12).