Notre Dame women's basketball: McGraw’s crew not overlooking CMU

Curt Rallo
South Bend Tribune

Notre Dame women’s basketball coach Muffet McGraw figures that she won’t have to say much to her players to get them focused on the serious threat that Central Michigan poses to the Irish on Sunday. Last season, Notre Dame rolled into Mount Pleasant, Mich., ranked No. 5 in the nation, boasting a 4-0 record and blowing out opponents by an average of 29.8 points. None of that fazed Central Michigan. The Chippewas only trailed by four points late in the game before the Irish pulled away for a 72-63 victory.This season, not much has changed as the No. 4 Irish (9-0) are blowing out opponents by 29.9 points a game. McGraw doesn’t expect the Chippewas to be fazed by those lofty numbers when the two teams square off at 2 p.m. at Purcell Pavilion. “After the game we had there last year, I don’t think anyone will be taking this game lightly,” McGraw said. “They are just such a really good team. Defensively, they do a lot of different things.” Central Michigan is fourth in the nation in made 3-pointers, averaging 9.7 treys a game. The Chippewas have hit 52 3-pointers in their last four games. “They are a dangerous team because they can score,” McGraw said. “They average close to 80 points a game (81.3). On any given night — and last year was one of them — they made a lot of big shots.”Crystal Bradford averages 19.9 points. She had a career-high seven steals on Wednesday night against Prairie View A&M. She has three double-doubles in her last four games, and is averaging 25.0 points, 14.6 rebounds and 4.6 steals in her last three games. “Bradford is playing extremely well,” McGraw said. “... She’s somebody we are really concerned about.” The closest a team has come to the Irish this year was No. 10 Penn State, which lost at home, 77-67. “I go back-and-forth on that,” McGraw said of wanting the Irish to face a tough test before the ACC schedule tips off. “I said that the other day. We really need to have a close game so we can work on our late-game stuff and see how we’re going to handle it, especially at the point guard, but we’re fine doing it in practice.” McGraw said that the Irish have been explosive at times, but that the team has plenty of work to do in order to remain a Top Four team. “We have a long way to go,” McGraw said. “We have not come close to playing as well as we can. We’ve had nice glimpses — the first half against Michigan, a lot of the game against UCLA — we’ve really played well at times. I think, defensively, we can continue to get better.” Post Taya Reimer, point guard Lindsay Allen and guard Michaela Mabrey, in particular, have emerged to play key roles for the Irish. “The freshmen, Taya and Lindsay, both have exceeded my expectations,” McGraw said. “What they are bringing to our team, in addition to Michaela Mabrey coming off the bench, those three have made us a better team in terms of our depth and what we have in our versatility. “I don’t think we’re as dependent on one person. If Jewell (Loyd) gets a couple of fouls, we can weather that storm for a half. If Lindsay gets a couple of fouls, Kayla McBride is doing a great job running the point. Taya Reimer comes in and gives us another dimension that we didn’t have last year.” CRallo@SBTinfo.com

Notre Dame forward Taya Reimer (12) defends a shot from DePaul guard/forward Megan Podkowa (30) during a women's NCAA college basketball on Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013, at the Purcell Pavilion at Notre Dame. SBT Photo/JAMES BROSHER