Notre Dame women's basketball takes care of business and Bobcats

John Fineran
Tribune Correspondent

SOUTH BEND – Notre Dame women’s basketball coach Muffet McGraw couldn’t have been prouder of her team’s work on the court and off this past week.

On it, the Irish won five times in seven days, including all three of their games in the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame Women’s Challenge at the Purcell Pavilion, the last of which was a 112-52 victory over a physical Quinnipiac squad Tuesday night.

Next up for the 6-0 Irish, who moved to No. 1 in the USA Today/Women’s Basketball Coaches Association poll prior to the contest while moving up to No. 2 behind South Carolina in the Associated Press media poll, is a Sunday afternoon game at 1 in the Women’s Challenge tournament against Kansas at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Mass.

The game with the Jayhawks will be the first of three during another challenging week for McGraw’s team, with a bus trip Wednesday, Dec. 3 to Fort Wayne to play No. 10 Maryland in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge before a return to the Purcell Pavilion for a nationally televised game with No. 3 Connecticut in the Jimmy V Women’s Classic on Saturday, Dec. 6.

“I’m really proud of the team right now – we’ve had such a tough stretch,” McGraw said. “It has been really difficult to play Wednesday, Friday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. We’ve been in class, we’ve been finishing papers and taking tests.”

Junior All-American Jewell Loyd shook off a 2-for-14 effort in Monday’s victory over Harvard to lead the Irish with 23 points, 13 before intermission as Notre Dame zoomed to a 57-30 lead over the Bobcats (3-2) despite committing 10 turnovers in the final 10 minutes of the half and 17 for the game. Freshman Brianna Turner rebounded from a field goal-less game against Harvard to hit 8-of-9 shots on her way to 20 points as Notre Dame again had five players score in double figures.

McGraw thought the turnovers might have been the result of the heavy load on and off the court plus the unselfishness with which her team plays.

“I think you need to have a little more focus when you get tired,” McGraw said. “We were tired mentally and we didn’t have that focus. We got careless. I think we really thought we were going to make a spectacular pass when all we needed to do was really be strong with the ball and take another second to look at the defense. We were sloppy, but I think we can fix that pretty quickly.”

Freshman forward Kathryn Westbeld came off the bench to record her first career double-double – 10 points and 12 points – while starters Taya Reimer and Michaela Mabrey contributed 12 points each and point guard Lindsay Allen had 7 points, 6 assists and 2 steals in 22 minutes.

McGraw was pleased with the third member of her freshman class, guard Mychal Johnson, who showed no ill effects from taking two hard charges late in Tuesday’s victory to record 9 points, assists and 4 steals with no turnovers.

“(Johnson) gave us such a huge lift,” McGraw said. “That’s a phenomenal line for a freshman. She hasn’t really played the point much and we don’t expect her to (with Allen), but she did a really good job. Jewell was phenomenal. She got us started. She came out and was ready to go.”

Loyd, who managed 11 points against Harvard despite an off night shooting the ball, said her adjustment was pretty easy, really.

“I just stopped thinking – I was overthinking things yesterday,” said Loyd, who now has scored in double figures in 49 straight games.

Turner, who scored just 3 points against Harvard, all from the charity stripe, said her adjustment was an easy one, too.

“I tried to run the floor more tonight,” she said. “I thought I could have run the floor a lot more last night (against Harvard). I knew Jewell and Lindsay (Allen) were going to be looking up (court), so I was really focusing on getting down the court.”

The offensive output was the most points by a Notre Dame team since a 128-55 victory over St. Francis, Pa. on New Year’s Eve of 2012. Notre Dame stretched its home winning streak to 33 games and its regular-season victory string to 58 while shooting 55.2 percent from the floor and holding Quinnipiac to just 32.8 percent. The Irish owned the boards, 52-26, with Reimer adding 8, and had 25 assists on their 37 field goals and 14 steals.

Samantha Guastella had 17 points and Val Driscoll and Jasmine Martin had 10 each for Tricia Fabbri’s Bobcats, who were facing the Irish for the first time.

• NOTRE DAME 112, QUINNIPIAC 52

At Purcell Pavilion, South Bend

QUINNIPIAC (52): Nikoline Ostergaard 1-3 0-0 2, Samantha Guastella 6-11 2-2 17, Val Driscoll 4-6 2-6 10, Jasmine Martin 3-11 4-4 10, Gillian Abshire 0-4 0-2 0, Adily Martucci 2-7 0-0 4, Maria Napolitano 2-7 0-0 6, Shaina Earle 0-1 0-0 0, Sarah Shewan 1-2 0-0 2, Brianah Ramos 0-1 0-0 0, Jennifer Fay 0-2 0-2 0, Morgan Manz 0-1 0-1 0, Tiffany Webster 0-0 1-2 1, Carly Fabbri 0-2 0-0 0, Brittany Johnson 0-0 0-0 0, TOTALS 19-58, 9-18 52.

NOTRE DAME (112): Brianna Turner 8-9 4-5 20, Taya Reimer 4-4 4-5 12, Lindsay Allen 3-6 1-2 7, Michaela Mabrey 4-13 0-0 12, Jewell Loyd 8-12 7-7 23, Kathryn Westbeld 2-5 6-9 10, Markisha Wright 0-2 2-2 2, Madison Cable 1-1 2-2 5, Hannah Huffman 3-5 0-0 6, Mychal Johnson 3-9 3-4 9, Whitney Holloway 1-1 2-2 5, Diamond Thompson 0-0 1-2 1, TOTALS 37-67 32-40 112.

Halftime: Notre Dame 57, Quinnipiac 30.

Shooting: Quinnipiac 19 of 58 for 32.8 percent; Notre Dame 37 of 67 for 55.2 percent. 3-pointers: Quinnipiac 5 of 23 for 21.7 percent (Guastella 3, Napolitano 2); Notre Dame 6 of 19 for 31.6 percent (Mabrey 4). Rebounds: Quinnipiac 26 (Driscoll 4, Guastella 3, Fay 3); Notre Dame 52 (Westbeld 12, Reimer 8, Allen 6, Loyd 5, Cable 5). Assists: Quinnipiac 12 (Abshire 8); Notre Dame 25 (Johnson 7, Allen 6, Westbeld 3). Blocked shots: Quinnipiac 1 (Guastella); Notre Dame 5 (Reimer 1, Loyd 1, Johnson 1, Cable 1, Westbeld 1). Steals: Quinnipiac 7 (Guastella 2, Abshire 2); Notre Dame 14 (Johnson 4, Loyd 3). Turnovers: Quinnipiac 25 (Fay 4, Martin 4); Notre Dame 17 (Reimer 4, Mabrey 4). Total fouls (fouled out): Quinnipiac 30 (none), Notre Dame 17 (none).

Officials: Luis Gonzalez, Jennifer Rezac, Angelica Suffren. Records: Quinnipiac 3-2, Notre Dame 6-0. A—8,429.

Quinnipiac guard Gillian Abshire attempts to pass around Notre Dame forward Brianna Turner, left and Jewell Loyd, right, in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2014, in South Bend, Ind. (AP Photo/Joe Raymond)