Notre Dame women’s basketball: Irish a threat from long range

South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND -- Central Michigan tried to chip away at a 10-point Notre Dame lead in the first half of Sunday’s women’s basketball game.

Michaela Mabrey made sure that the Chippewas wouldn’t get any closer.

Mabrey, a 5-foot-10 sophomore, set up behind the 3-point arc and launched a shot.


Mabrey’s 3-pointer gave the Irish a 31-18 lead and triggered an 11-2 run.

Notre Dame’s 3-point shot has emerged as a critical weapon for the No. 2-ranked Irish, and no one is doing it better than them. Notre Dame ranks No. 1 in the nation, hitting 44.9 percent of their 3-point attempts (53-of-118). Only 10 of the 283 Division I teams are shooting better than 40 percent.

Notre Dame’s sharpshooting has helped the Irish fashion a 10-0 record heading into its game at Oregon State (8-3) on Dec. 29.

“It’s a dagger for the defense when you can make 3s,” said Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw. “They’ll come down and make a mini-run and hit a couple of shots, and then (Mabrey) will come down and hit a 3. It just deflates the other team. It’s a great thing to have in our arsenal.

“We’re excited that this looks like our best 3-point-shooting team that we’ve had in a while.”

This season’s crew is within striking distance of the Irish record of .464 (173-of-373), set by the national championship team of 2001. That was also the last time a Notre Dame team hit better than 40 percent of its 3-pointers.

Only three Notre Dame teams (2000-01, 1989-90, and 1999-00) have finished the season shooting better than 40 percent from behind the arc.

Michaela Mabrey has the most 3-pointers (20) and is shooting at a .417 clip. She has hit 8 of 13 attempts in her last two games. Lindsay Allen is shooting .571 (8-of-14), followed by Madison Cable at .529 (9-of-17) and Kayla McBride at .500 (9-of-18).

Notre Dame’s proficiency from beyond the arc has also helped the Irish rank No. 1 in the nation in field-goal shooting at 52.2 percent. The Irish are also tops in assists per game (23.8).

On the other side ...

Numbers on a basketball stat sheet don’t change depending upon who’s reading it. But the interpretation does.

Prior to Sunday, Central Michigan was making 9.7 3-pointers a game (fourth in the nation) and connecting on 37 percent of its attempts. The Chippewas had hit a total of 52 3s in their previous four games.

Against the Irish, they were 0-of-7 from 3-point range before finally connecting with 5:36 left in the first half.

At first glance, the 6-of-24 shooting (25 percent) might be acceptable to the Irish because it was so much worse than the Chippewas’ usual production, but the numbers weren’t pleasing to Notre Dame’s Hall of Fame coach.

“I was disappointed in the defense pretty much top to bottom,” McGraw said. “We did not guard the 3-point line. They got 24 shots because they were open. They just missed them. It wasn’t anything to do with our defense.”

Central Michigan coach Sue Guevara gave the Irish defense credit.

"I thought that our 3-point shooters were very intimidated today,” she said. “Everyone knows that we have two kids, (Niki) Diguilio and (Kerby) Tamm, that can flat-out shoot the 3 ball. Notre Dame was flying out at them and there's a very simple thing you can do — that would be a shot fake. We just could never get them going.”

More disappointment

Two weeks ago, Notre Dame led the nation in rebounding margin (16.6).

That stat took a hit Sunday.

Central Michigan outrebounded the Irish, 39-38.

“I was really disappointed with the rebounding,” McGraw said. “We’ve done so well all year long. To get outrebounded, to give up 20 offensive rebounds, it was a nice Christmas present we gave them. We really didn’t want to be doing that.”

Maturing shooting

Notre Dame sophomore Jewell Loyd scored a career-high 30 points on Sunday. She hit 12 of 15 shots, including 2 of 3 from 3-point range, and hit 4 of 7 free throws. She also had 11 rebounds for her third career double-double.

“I think she is a little more aggressive with her shot selection,” McGraw said of Loyd. “Last year at times, with Skylar (Diggins) and (Kayla) McBride, Jewell was a little bit more reserved offensively. I think now she is seeing that we need her and an explosion like that. She is capable and I think that she is really playing to her potential.

“I love where she is because she is really getting comfortable and gaining confidence. She is doing the right things and is very smart. She can score around the basket, put the ball on the floor. She really sees the floor, and I am just really pleased with where she is at, at this point.”

800 Club

Notre Dame became the 27th women’s program to reach the 800-victory plateau.

“It is great for Notre Dame basketball, and we have put ourselves in a position to have the success we have had,” McGraw said. “We have really built this program with so many great players and people that have come through here that have helped us. The assistant coaches and the fans — it takes a lot of people to really make the program. And all the support staff and the people that we have around us have just done a fantastic job on getting us here. I am really proud of that.”


Notre Dame's Michaela Mabrey takes the ball downcourt during a game earlier this season.