Notre Dame basketball: Eagles coach gives Irish passing grade

South Bend Tribune

Entering Thursday's game at Notre Dame, the Boston College women's basketball team was ranked No. 48 in the nation in assists per game (16.3) and No. 30 in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.18).

After playing a Notre Dame team that leads the nation in assists per game (22.8) and is fifth in assist-to-turnover (1.52), BC coach Erik Johnson understands that the Irish passing game is at a higher level.

"Notre Dame is the best passing team that we have seen, by far," said Johnson, whose team lost 95-53. "Normally, we're the best passing team on the court. We are one of the top assist teams in the country. We're very, very good at ball movement.

"It was a humbling experience in watching a team in Notre Dame that moved the ball twice as well as we did. They really just picked our defense apart. We tried to do the same thing to them, and they were more solid defensively."

Banking on reserves

After putting up a meager four points in Sunday's victory over Clemson, the Notre Dame bench came alive Thursday.

The Irish reserves outscored Boston College on their own, pouring in a season-high 55 points.

Michaela Mabrey led the second unit with 18 points, followed by Taya Reimer (15) and Madison Cable (six)

Notre Dame's bench gets another shot to make progress on Sunday when the No. 2-ranked Irish (14-0, 2-0 ACC) play at Virginia (8-7, 1-1).

Against BC, Reimer, Mabrey and Cable were a combined 14-of-20 from the field (including Mabrey's 5-of-6 on 3-pointers) for 39 points.

After playing a combined 35 minutes against Clemson, the trio saw 54 minutes of action Thursday. Irish coach Muffet McGraw said before the BC game that she pulled them from the Clemson game too quickly.

Against Boston College, the top three Irish reserves were in the game early, and stayed in at critical moments.

"I'm just trying to show them I believe in them," McGraw said. "That's something I need to do more of. I thought they responded really well. I'm really pleased. Everybody who came in had a good focus. I thought, defensively, we did some good things. We gave up a couple of open shots, but overall, we executed pretty well.

"I think the bench is critical to our success. We can't win without them. They are probably our best asset right now, because I think we have the best depth of any team in the country. We have some really good players coming off the bench. We get better offensively coming off the bench. I think that they're very important and we need to keep them scoring."

Notre Dame's reserves have had a number of outstanding games this season, but the Irish were outscored by Clemson's bench, 13-4, in a 71-51 victory. That brought extra work for the reserves.

"The bench isn't going to score the same way the starters do," McGraw said. "We were working on some other things they could do and how to play to their strengths. How to get Michaela more shots? How to get Koko (Kristina Nelson) more shots? What kind of things are we going to do differently? We're probably not going to run (the) Princeton (offense) with that group.

"It was ironing out things. Here's what we're going to run. Here's how we're going to work on it."

Playing the fame game

Notre Dame will play Kansas next season in a showcase event sponsored by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. The Irish will play Kansas at either the MassMutual Center in Springfield, Mass., or the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn.

Notre Dame played Kansas last season in the Sweet 16 in Norfolk, Va., winning, 93-63.

Notre Dame's schedule is expected to include home games against Tennessee and Michigan and road trips to DePaul, Michigan State and UCLA. The Irish have also agreed to play Connecticut next season, and expect to be in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.