Notre Dame handles Bucknell, but McGraw sees plenty to fix

Ken Klimek
Tribune Correspondent

SOUTH BEND — Muffet McGraw seemed pleased at the post-game celebration Sunday honoring her for her 700th career victory at Notre Dame, but she was not particularly happy about her women’s basketball team’s performance, despite defeating Bucknell, 85-54, at Purcell Pavilion.

The No. 3 Irish never were seriously threatened in their first game of the season, but McGraw said, “We need to improve in every area of the game. They exposed some weaknesses of ours today and we have to work on them. We had breakdowns in our weak-side defense.”

“We have to learn to know where we need to be (defensively),” added Irish starter Brianna Turner.

Notre Dame started slowly, leading only 20-15 early in the second quarter, but freshman Marina Mabrey sparked a 12-0 Irish run and the closest Bucknell came after that was a 15-point deficit.  Mabrey scored 12 of her 16 points during that second-quarter spurt.

Bucknell is 1-1.

The Irish offense was sluggish early, partly because Lindsay Allen picked up two quick fouls and had to take a seat on the bench. 

“We need Lindsay on the floor,” McGraw said. "We struggle without her on the floor pretty much every way. We can play any four with her when she is on the floor, but we have to be careful of our combinations when she is out.” 

Allen finished with eight assists despite playing only 20 minutes.

The Irish led 36-20 at halftime, and started getting the ball inside in the third quarter. Turner scored six of her game-high 21 points early in the period, and the Irish streaked to a 22-9 explosion to put the game away.

Bucknell Coach Aaron Rousell, in his fourth season with the team, was especially pleased that his squad held a 44-33 rebounding advantage.

“That’s something positive we can take away from this game,” he said. "Not many teams will do that against Notre Dame.”

ND sophomore Mychal Johnson, held out of last week’s exhibition game victory over Wayne State with a lower leg injury, returned Sunday, logging 14 minutes, most in relief of Allen at the point. Junior Taya Reimer did not dress due to injury.

Madison Cable added 20 points for Notre Dame, while Kathryn Westbeld scored nine points and led Notre Dame with six rebounds. Freshman Arike Ogunbowale also scored nine for the Irish.

Claire DeBoer, an All-Patriot League preseason first-team selection, scored 14 for Bucknell, the same total as guard Jackie Klotz. DeBoer and Klotz each had 14 rebounds.

The victory was Notre Dame’s 21st consecutive season-opening win and the Irish are 49-3 against first-time opponents since the start of the 2000-2001 season. Notre Dame also has a string of 25 straight victories against first-time opponents.

The Irish won’t have a lot of time to polish things. They will return to action Wednesday when Toledo visits for a 7 p.m. game

Celebration

Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick led a short celebration after the game to honor McGraw for her 700th victory at Notre Dame. She was presented with a pair of glittering green high heels, recognizing her penchant for her sideline footwear. The heels were presented by Ruth Riley, a leader of the 2001 Irish national championship team. Also on hand, of course, were Niele Ivey and Beth Cunningham, final four participants in 2001 and 1997 respectively. McGraw’s mother Anne was in attendance for the Sunday presentation.

“I’m not much of a goal-setter,” McGraw said later. "One of my first was to pack the Joyce. We have done that many times.” 

Sunday’s attendance for the Bucknell game was 8,948, just short of capacity.

McGraw is now 700-211 at Notre Dame and 788-262 early in her 34th season as a head coach.

Family reunion

The visit by Bucknell turned out to be a family reunion of sorts. Irish assistant coach Beth Cunningham was at Virginia Commonwealth, where her director of basketball operations was Molly Abernethy, daughter of South Bend resident John (Spike) Abernethy.

Molly now is married to Bucknell Coach Aaron Rousell. Both were in Chicago when he was head coach at University of Chicago. Tom Abernethy, former St. Joseph’s High School and Indiana University basketball great, was in attendance, along with many members of the Abernethy and Rousell family.

“She’s the best, the absolute best,'' Rousell said of McGraw. “She has been great to many coaches. She opened the doors to me when I was at Chicago. We talked a lot of basketball. And she helped make this game for us against Notre Dame possible.’’

NOTRE DAME 85, BUCKNELL 54

BUCKNELL (1-1): Tyler Craig 1-3 2-2 4, Megan McGurk 0-4 1-2 1, Claire DeBoer 6-11 2-2 14, Jacquie Klotz 5-17 3-4 14, Catherine Romaine 1-3 0-0 3, Kyi English 3-6 0-0 7, Claire Maree O'Bryan 0-1 0-0 0, Rachel Dumiak 1-3 0-0 3, Kate Walker 0-0 0-2 0, Maegan Mikkelsen 0-0 0-0 0, Sheaira Jones 0-2 0-2 0, Sune Swart 4-6 0-0 8, Kaitlyn Slagus 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 21-56 8-14 54.

NOTRE DAME (1-0): Brianna Turner 9-14 3-6 21, Lindsay Allen 2-7 0-0 4, Madison Cable 7-9 3-3 20, Michaela Mabrey 0-2 0-0 0, Kathryn Westbeld 4-9 1-2 9, Arike Ogunbowale 3-6 3-5 9, Marina Mabrey 6-10 3-5 16, Mychal Johnson 0-3 2-2 2, Kristina Nelson 1-3 0-1 2, Hannah Huffman 1-1 0-0 2, Diamond Thompson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 33-64 15-24 85.

Halftime-Notre Dame 41-26. 3-Point Goals-Bucknell 4-14 (English 1-1, Romaine 1-1, Dumiak 1-1, Klotz 1-7, Jones 0-1, McGurk 0-1, Craig 0-2), Notre Dame 4-9 (Cable 3-4, Ma. Mabrey 1-1, Allen 0-1, Ogunbowale 0-1, Mi. Mabrey 0-2). Fouled Out-Klotz. Rebounds-Bucknell 44 (Klotz 11), Notre Dame 33 (Westbeld 6). Assists-Bucknell 10 (McGurk 3), Notre Dame 19 (Allen 8). Total Fouls-Bucknell 22, Notre Dame 18. A_8,948.

Notre Dame’s Brianna Turner (11) and Kathryn Westbeld (33) work together to block a shot by Bucknell’s Jacquie Klotz (21) during ND's season-opening romp over Bucknell, Sunday in South Bend. (SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN)