Notre Dame women win, but McGraw irked by ho-hum performance

John Fineran
Tribune Correspondent

SOUTH BEND — Muffet McGraw showed a lot of her fiery Philadelphia self Thursday night following her sixth-ranked team's 89-76 Atlantic Coast Conference victory over a tenacious Georgia Tech team.

There are ugly victories, and then there are even uglier ones, and as far as McGraw was concerned, Notre Dame's 18th triumph in 20 outings this season belongs in the latter category. It was not very pretty in the eyes of the Irish coach.

After the Irish played so impressively at No. 12 North Carolina (89-79) on Jan. 15 and then following it up with perhaps their best performance of the season in Monday's 88-77 victory over No. 5 Tennessee, McGraw wondered aloud where the heads of her young team were Thursday against the Yellow Jackets (12-8, 2-4 ACC) and probably wondered where those heads might be Saturday when Notre Dame visits Clemson (9-10, 1-5 ACC) at 5 p.m. to end a busy week.

"I think one of the problems with a young team is they don't understand it's not about winning or losing the game,'' said McGraw, who entered the post-game press conference unaccompanied by any of her players, though junior All-America guard Jewell Loyd, who had 29 points, five rebounds and a career-high-tying seven assists, and sophomore forward Taya Reimer, who had 19 points, eight rebounds and four assists, showed up a little after their coach had started.

"It's about how you play,'' McGraw continued. "It's about the attitude you have, the toughness you show and we did not show any toughness today. We had no pride in our defense whatsoever. I was extremely disappointed with the defensive effort (and) the rebounding effort. I thought Taya Reimer did a great job on the defensive glass, but no one else did their job.''

McGraw was not done, either.

"(The game) was extremely disappointing to watch,'' she said, "and the only reason we won the game is because we outscored them. We looked like that was our mentality, that we were just going to try to outscore them and not try to stop them, and that is just not acceptable.''

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"I think that coming off two huge games against North Carolina and Tennessee — a lot of emotion — they thought that they were going to win and gave it half the effort,'' McGraw said.

Loyd, who scored 34 in Monday's victory, was once again crucial down the stretch. Notre Dame saw both freshman forward Brianna Turner, the national freshman of the week, and sophomore point guard Lindsay Allen struggle with foul problems trying to hold off the inspired Yellow Jackets, who placed four players in double figures, led by Kaela Davis' 24 points.

Turner produced 14 points but played only 17 minutes because of four fouls and finished with just one blocked shot and four rebounds with three turnovers. Allen, who played so well Monday evening with 15 points, five rebounds and six assists, managed to play 31 minutes despite her four fouls and scored just six points, and had five turnovers with six assists.

"I think we just need more focus," Loyd said. "The whole day, we just need to know what's coming forward and we need to communicate better. I think today we didn't communicate and we definitely weren't focused. We have to be ready for every single game — there are no off days.''

If not for an off start, the young Yellow Jackets of coach MaChelle Joseph, the former Purdue All-American from DeKalb High School, might have provided an ACC shocker.

"You have to come out and own the first five minutes of the game,'' Joseph said. "I was pleased with our effort. I thought we battled. I thought my freshmen did a good job going after their freshmen. I thought that's a different team almost when she (Turner) is not in the game.''

Notre Dame, which led by 18 points (32-14) with 9:24 to go in the half on Reimer's layup off a feed from Loyd, was still ahead by 13 (32-19) when Turner drew her second foul of the half in the closely officiated game. With her out, Georgia Tech was able to offset Notre Dame's early 16-5 rebounding edge and got the deficit down to four (40-36) with 3:38 to go before the intermission. Leading 48-41 with the clock shot off in the final seconds, Loyd couldn't get her teammates into the offense and hurried up a missed jumper as the horn sounded. It was so unlike Monday's first-half ending when Loyd rebounded an Allen miss and put it in at the buzzer for a 40-37 lead.

More foul trouble continued in the second half as Allen's third personal was the team's fifth in the first 4:24. Fortunately for Notre Dame, Georgia Tech could get no closer than eight and the Irish actually built the lead up to 17 (81-64) with 5:19 to play.

Reimer's 19 points was her best offensive effort since scoring 21 in a 92-72 victory over Maryland in Fort Wayne Dec. 3 and easily her best all-around effort since missing games against Miami and Boston College for "personal reasons.'' Asked what those reasons were, Reimer was protected by both her coach and a team spokesman and did not reply when asked.

"Let's not go there,'' McGraw said.

"I'm just trying to do my job and everyone needs to do their job for us to be successful,'' Reimer said.

On that, her feisty coach would agree.


At Purcell Pavilion, South Bend

GEORGIA TECH (76): Zaire O'Neil 5-13 0-3 10, Roddreka Rogers 4-4 0-0 8, Aaliyah Whiteside 6-11 3-3 16, Kaela Davis 11-24 2-3 24, Antonia Peresson 1-3 2-2 4, Katarina Vuckovic 4-7 0-0 12, Imani Tilford 0-0 0-0 0, Nariah Taylor 1-2 0-0 2, TOTALS 32-64 7-11 76.

NOTRE DAME (89): Brianna Turner 6-7 2-3 14, Taya Reimer 8-15 3-6 19, Lindsay Allen 2-4 2-2 6, Michaela Mabrey 3-7 0-0 8, Jewell Loyd 10-7 9-9 29, Kathryn Westbeld 4-6 0-0 8, Madison Cable 2-4 0-0 5, Mychal Johnson 0-1 0-0 0, Hannah Huffman 0-1 0-0 0, TOTALS 35-62 16-20 89.

Halftime: Notre Dame 48, Georgia Tech 41.

Shooting: Georgia Tech 32 of 64 for 50 percent; Notre Dame 35 of 62 for 56.5 percent. 3-point shooting: Georgia Tech 5 of 17 (Vuckovic 4-7, Whiteside 1-5, Davis 0-3, Peresson 0-2) for 29.4 percent; Notre Dame 3 of 14 (Mabrey 2-6, Cable 1-3, Westbeld 0-1, Allen 0-1, Loyd 0-3) for 21.4 percent. Rebounds: Georgia Tech 30 (Davis 7, O’Neil 6, Rogers 6); Notre Dame 34 (Reimer 8, Loyd 5, Turner 4, Westbeld 4).

Assists: Georgia Tech 13 (O'Neil 4, Rogers 2, Whiteside 2, Davis 2); Notre Dame 27 (Loyd 7, Allen 6, Reimer 4, Mabrey 4, Westbeld 3, Cable 2). Blocked shots: Georgia Tech 4 (Rogers 3, O'Neil 1); Notre Dame 1 (Turner 1). Steals: Georgia Tech 7 (Whiteside 4); Notre Dame 11 (Loyd 3, Cable 3, Mabrey 2, Westbeld 2). Turnovers: Georgia Tech 17 (Rogers 4, Davis 4, O'Neil 3); Notre Dame 14 (Allen 5, Turner 3, Loyd 3, Reimer 2). Total fouls (fouled out): Georgia Tech 19 (none); Notre Dame 15 (none).

Officials: Denise Brooks, Rod Creech, Karen Preato. Records: Georgia Tech 12-8, 2-4 ACC; Notre Dame 18-2, 5-1 ACC). A—8,865.

Notre Dame Head Coach Muffet McGraw screams in disbelief over an official's call along with fans Thursday, January 22, 2015, during the Georgia Tech-Notre Dame women's basketball game at Purcell Pavilion. SBT Photo/GREG SWIERCZ