Notre Dame women’s basketball: How to break a funk? Keep shooting

Al Lesar

South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND -- Shooters have to approach the game of basketball without a conscience.

Whatever happened before has no bearing on what’s happening now.

A short memory is a gift.

Michaela Mabrey is a hired gun for the Notre Dame women’s basketball team. At 5-foot-10, she doesn’t intimidate anyone inside. She’s not the fastest of the Irish. Her defense is good enough to keep her out of trouble — for the most part — with head coach Muffet McGraw.

What Mabrey does is shoot. She makes a living beyond the 3-point arc.

The last two games, the sophomore came up broke. She missed all 11 of her shots against South Dakota State and her only attempt against Clemson (nine of those were 3-pointers).

So, how does she have the confidence to come out firing in Notre Dame’s 95-53 win over Boston College on Thursday night?

About a minute after being subbed into the game midway through the first half, the rotation found Mabrey open on the right side. Set the feet, maintain balance, let it fly.

So much for the drought.

“I was really, really mad about my performance the last two games,” Mabrey said. “I got in the gym every night; got shots up; went before the game and got shots up.

“I knew once (that first shot) came off my fingers it was going in. Just having that confidence and knowing I put the work in beforehand really helped.”

“She shot it well in practice,” McGraw said. “She got in the gym right away. She’s always in the gym shooting. She builds her confidence with practice.

“She’s a shooter. She doesn’t mind missing. She’ll come back and hit the next one. When you go 0-for-11, you have to have a courageous attitude to keep shooting.

“I was pleased with her. Her job is to shoot the ball, and she did it well tonight.”

It wasn’t an accidental improvement. That time in the gym since Sunday was spent honing the technique of her shot. When things go bad, there’s a reason. It’s not just by chance.

“It’s mechanical,” Mabrey said. “My foot didn’t go straight. I fade. That’s when I know I’m going to miss. I made sure every shot I took (in practice) was good so that every shot I took in the game, it wouldn’t happen.

“I’m conscious (of the mechanics during the game). When I get shots up during (practice), I’m not.”

Those mechanics were pretty solid Thursday. Despite having just two points combined in the last two outings, the Belmar, N.J., product still came into the BC game averaging 9.1 points.

That first swish on a 3-pointer was instrumental in Mabrey connecting on 6 of 9 shots (5 of 6 3-pointers) and finishing with 18 points, one shy of her career high.

“We want to come off the bench and contribute,” Mabrey said. “We don’t want to be the weak links. This week, we really preached that to ourselves.”

Of course, Mabrey’s initial appearance on the floor was a bit limited. Two whiffs on defensive chances that resulted in Boston College layups were enough for Mabrey to be summoned to the bench.

“We did a lot of switching,” Mabrey said. “Sometimes we don’t communicate well. If you make constant defensive mistakes, they’ll take you out.”

No matter how well you’re shooting.

The message was understood. Those were the last two defensive blunders of the evening.

When she’s on, Mabrey can be a weapon that confounds the opposition.

“We gave up layups in the first half,” said Boston College coach Erik Johnson. “We finally forced them to shoot perimeter shots and they hit 8 of 12 3s.”

Now that’s the mark of a team — and a perimeter weapon — that may have finally found itself.

What happened the last two games didn’t matter.

New life. Clean slate.

Keep shooting.



Notre Dame's Michaela Mabrey (23) breaks away on a fast break during  Thursday night's game against Boston College at Notre Dame. (SBT Photo/JAMES BROSHER)