Notre Dame women's basketball: Muffet looking for faster start

South Bend Tribune

Notre Dame women’s basketball coach Muffet McGraw prefers her celebrations after a game, not before it.

Hoopla over Notre Dame joining the Atlantic Coast Conference lasted until seconds before Notre Dame’s tipoff against Clemson on Sunday. After tipoff, the No. 2-ranked Irish didn’t have a lot to celebrate during a sluggish first half. Notre Dame led Clemson, 27-23, at halftime, and only hit 29 percent of its shots (8-of-28).

In the game, Notre Dame struggled through season-low numbers for first-half points (27), field goals made (25), field goal attempts (55), 3-point percentage (.200) and assists (15).

Notre Dame entered the Clemson game leading the nation in shooting percentage (51.4 percent).

Thursday, when Notre Dame (13-0) takes on Boston College (10-5), McGraw hopes the Irish have shaken off their lethargic ACC start. McGraw said the Irish don’t need to make drastic changes for Boston College.

“I really think we need to step back a little bit,” McGraw said. “When I looked at the game film, we got the shots we always got. We just missed them. We weren’t making the shots we normally make, but we were still getting out in transition. Clemson only scored 51 points. I said to myself, relax. We’re OK. I need to have a more relaxed approach. I feel like I have been relaxed this season, but there was a big build-up to that game.”

Boston College hit 10 3-pointers in its 70-63 victory against Virginia Tech on Sunday to open its ACC slate. Kristen Doherty, a 5-11 guard/forward, leads Boston College with 14.9 points and 6.4 rebounds a game. Katie Zenevitch, a 6-3 senior post, averages 11.7 points and 7.0 rebounds a game.

After a 3-5 start, which included a 12-point loss to then-No. 3 Stanford, the Eagles have run off seven consecutive victories.

“Boston College has made a lot of good strides under their coach, Erik Johnson,” McGraw said. “He was an assistant there back when we used to play them in the Big East. Now he’s back as the head coach. He’s got some really good perimeter shooters. They make about eight 3s a game. They are a program on the rise. It should be a really good game.

“Their best player, Kristen Doherty, is someone we recruited. She’s a very good player. They also have a really good post, Katie Zenevitch, and she can play inside and out. She scores around the basket and can shoot 3s.”

Notre Dame had trouble dealing with Clemson’s driving attack. Boston College loves the perimeter, averaging 7.4 3-pointers a game. The Irish have played several perimeter-oriented teams this season, and have limited opponents to 27 percent shooting from 3-point range.

“We played a bunch of 3-point shooting teams in a row, so we’re comfortable with that,” McGraw said. “We know how to guard them. We’re better at guarding that than we are the drivers.”

McGraw hopes to see the Irish defense play more of a role jump-starting the transition game, and for a consistent lock-down defender to emerge.

“We’re getting our transition game going on rebounds, but we’re not getting a lot of steals,” McGraw said. “Last year, we were in the top five in the nation for steals per game. I think we need to get better at steals to get our transition game going.

“I’ve been a little disappointed that we really don’t have that consistent lock-down defender. Kayla McBride has been that person for us this year. Jewell Loyd was that person last year. They seem to take turns in terms of who is the better defender. Jewell is the better on-the-ball defender, and K-Mac is better at fighting through screens.

“Right now, I would say that K-Mac is the lock-down defender. But on-the-ball, full court, like (Skylar Diggins) could do, we really don’t have one. So we have to figure out how do we adjust, because we don’t have that. We have to do things a different way. I think Lindsay Allen can get up and guard the ball. She’s going to get better at it. She’s the only one right now. We need to figure out how we get better in the half-court defense.”


WHO: No. 2 Notre Dame (13-0, 1-0 ACC) vs. Boston College (10-5, 1-0)

WHERE: Purcell Pavilion (9,149)

WHEN: 7 p.m. EST Thursday

TV: None

RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9, 92.1)

ONLINE: www.und.com

TICKETS: Available

WORTH NOTING: Notre Dame is 12-5 against former Big East rival Boston College. ... The last time the Irish played the Eagles, Notre Dame rolled to a 102-54 road victory on Nov. 23, 2008. ... Notre Dame is 8-0 at home against Boston College. ... The Eagles won their ACC opener against Virginia Tech, 70-63. ... At 13-0, Notre Dame has its third-best start in program history and best start since a 15-0 debut in 2009-10 ... The Irish have won 36 consecutive regular-season games and 19 straight home games, both dating back to Dec. 5, 2012 (a 73-61 loss to third-ranked Baylor). ... Irish guard Michaela Mabrey leads the ACC in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.75). ... ND’s Madison Cable leads the ACC in 3-point shooting percentage (.565). ... Notre Dame committed a season-low seven turnovers against Clemson on Sunday. ... Boston College post Katie Zenevitch is four points away from reaching the 1,000-point mark. ... Fans are encouraged to bring a new or mildly used storybook to Thursday’s game to donate to the Irish book drive for area children.

WORTH QUOTING: “I think we’ve had some tight games, but it’s been really good for us. I think, now, the players are gaining confidence. No matter if the shots are dropping or not, we’re going to find a way to win.” — Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw