Notre Dame forward Taya Reimer is back, but are the Irish?

Al Lesar
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND – All’s well, right?

Taya’s back, the Irish won by 46, and more than 9,000 fans went home with Big Mac coupons.

Just like the old days for the Notre Dame women’s basketball program.

The 104-58 Irish mauling of Boston College, a team that has only one victory over a school west of the Hudson this season, was hardly enough to soothe what was a really rough week.

Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw has said all along that there were going to be some growing pains with this group. But what appears to have been a near-defection by 6-foot-3 post Taya Reimer, and a loss to unranked Miami – which left the Irish “shattered,” according to McGraw – might have been a bit more than anyone expected.

Some pretty significant cracks in a very solid program were exposed.

Could the Irish get enough Spackle from a victory over a bad BC team to completely reinforce the fissures in time for a trip to North Carolina Thursday? Or, was Sunday just a cosmetic fix?

McGraw danced the dance with the media after Sunday’s game. Even 49 points from freshmen Brianna Turner (21), Kathryn Westbeld (15) and Mychal Johnson (13) couldn’t turn the attention from the “time off” that McGraw said she gave Reimer, a 6-3 sophomore post from the Indianapolis area, recently.

Slice through the covert whispers and frustration, and it likely boils down to Reimer, a player with high expectations (2013 Morgan Wooten National Player of the Year), still struggling with the adjustment into a primary role (9.9 points a game, 6.1 rebounds).

The start of a new semester was a crossroads for her. It was fish or cut bait time, so to speak.

Apparently, Reimer plans to fish.

“She’s back,” McGraw said, as if there was never a doubt. “We expect her to be at practice (Monday).”

Reimer didn’t make it back in time for practice Saturday, which meant she spent Sunday in street clothes watching the game from the bench. The crowd gave her cheers when she accompanied her teammates for pre-game warmups.

“(Reimer) just took a few days off,” said McGraw. When pressed further about the reason, McGraw didn’t elaborate. “I offered it to her to take some time off to think about some things. She took me up on it.

“We felt like she was always still part of us, just away for a couple days. It was a shock when she (initially) came in (to talk with McGraw). She had some things to think about. She hadn’t been talking to me about it at all during the year.

“She was not happy with the way things were going on the court. We talked about some things we could fix. She was concerned. She wants to play well. She’s a really good player, she has a lot of talent. We had a really good conversation about how we’re going to get there.”

Had the Irish put the Hurricanes away like they normally do to unranked adversaries, Reimer’s absence still would have been significant with fans, but probably not as monumental as it has become.

Missing Reimer likely contributed to the avalanche of problems the Irish experienced on South Beach, but it was hardly front and center.

Shooting 36 percent, scoring just 20 first-half points, having Turner and Jewell Loyd in foul trouble most of the game, and allowing Adrienne Motley to score 32 had more to do with the Irish stinker than Reimer’s absence.

“The expectation and mentality with this group has been different (than years past),” McGraw said of the vulnerability of the current team. “I expected we were going to take some lumps and it was going to be a journey to get where we needed to get to.

“In the past, it’s been a long time since we lost to an unranked team (West Virginia, at home, Feb. 12, 2012). We had a great streak (30 consecutive wins) on the road. This is a completely different team. They are learning. We’ll be ready. There’s a lot of parity this year. There are a lot of teams that could beat anybody. You can see that in the (Atlantic Coast Conference) with the upsets that have already happened (like Pittsburgh over No. 8 North Carolina, 84-59, as well as Miami over the Irish).”

Of course, there was a time that Notre Dame wouldn’t have been vulnerable to that sort of clunker.

But that’s in the past. All’s right in the world again.

At least for now.

Notre Dame sophomore forward Taya Reimer (left) laughs from the bench late in the second half of the teams matchup against Boston College Sunday January 11, 2015 in South Bend. The Fighting Irish defeated the Eagles 104-58. (SBT Photo/BECKY MALEWITZ)