Notre Dame women's basketball: Irish hit the road in ACC play

South Bend Tribune

Notre Dame celebrated the opening of its ACC era in women’s basketball with plenty of fanfare in its first two league games, both at the friendly confines of Purcell Pavilion.

Now, the No. 2-ranked Irish get ready for the harsh realities of the road in a league that has two teams in the As-sociated Press Top 5, another in the Top 10, and four overall in the Top 25.

Notre Dame (14-0, 2-0) on Sunday takes on Virginia (8-7, 1-1) in its first ACC road trip.

Virginia rallied from a seven-point deficit late in the second half at Virginia Tech on Thursday to post a 67-60 vic-tory.

“Virginia just keeps getting better, all year long,” McGraw said. “They played Tennessee to a pretty close game (a 76-67 Virginia loss). They’ve had some different starting lineups, but they really seem to have found their stride re-cently. We are preparing for what we expect to be a tough conference battle.”

Altaria Franklin leads the Cavaliers in scoring with 13.1 points a game. The 5-foot-11 senior is averaging 17.0 points in the two ACC games.

“She’s really, really good,” McGraw said. “She can shoot the 3, she can drive the ball, she can post up. She’s a very versatile player. She’s a big guard who can do a lot of things. She’s a very dangerous player.”

Notre Dame counters with a balanced offensive attack.

McGraw said that the Irish offense will be tested by a Virginia team that tries to keep opposing offenses off guard with switching defenses.

“Virginia is a very defense-oriented team,” McGraw said. “They play a lot of different defenses. They really, really work hard. They’re active defensively, and they’re athletic. They really seem committed to defense.”

Notre Dame has been impressive at times on the road. The Irish turned in a monster first half in dismantling Michigan. The Irish gutted out a victory at then-No. 10 Penn State. Notre Dame won at Penn, but the Irish looked sluggish at times.

“We really need to play the same way on the road that we do at home,” McGraw said. “That’s something that we’re looking for right now, a team that can go down to any court in the ACC and basically come out and play the same game that we would play at home. I don’t think we’re quite there, yet. The opponent, obviously, plays better at home. It’s a little bit tougher at home. I’d like to see the same energy that we brought to the last game (a 95-53 vic-tory against Boston College).”

Following that romp, McGraw was most pleased with her top three reserves — Taya Reimer, Michaela Mabrey and Madison Cable. After the three combined for two points in the ACC opener against Clemson last Sunday, they combined for 39 points against Boston College.

“I was so happy with Taya Reimer,” McGraw said of her 6-foot-3 freshman post. “She was aggressive. She was looking for her shot more. She played one of her best games against Boston College. I was really pleased with her game. And then, Michaela Mabrey, shooting 5-of-6 from 3-point range, and Madison Cable’s play ... it’s nice to know that the bench is ready.

“It’s great to have the bench produce the way they did against Boston College. You get to rest people, foul trou-ble isn’t a concern, and there’s no let up when you have people that productive coming off the bench.”

Although the Irish enter the game as heavy favorites, McGraw warned that her team has to be wary of newness of the ACC, the challenge of the road and earlier stretches of lackadaisical play.

“We have to be ready every game, and we are,” McGraw said. “We’re certainly not looking past anyone in this conference. It’s just more anxiety. We don’t know what to expect, so we’re preparing for a lot of different things.”

Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw looks on from the sideline during the women's basketball game against Michigan State on Monday, Nov. 11, 2013, inside the Purcell Pavilion at Notre Dame in South Bend. (SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN)

WHO: No. 2 Notre Dame (14-0, 2-0 ACC) vs. Virginia (8-7, 1-1)

WHERE: John Paul Jones Arena (14,593), Charlottesville, Va.

WHEN: 2 p.m. Sunday

TV: None

RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9, 92.1), WatchND.tv

ONLINE: www.und.com, virginiasports.com (pay site)

TICKETS: Available