It was all about defense for Notre Dame women's hoops in win over Fordham

With offense off, Irish find another way to win

Ken Klimek I Tribune Correspondent
ND Insider

SOUTH BEND – There won’t be many highlight clips from this one.

Both coaches agreed.

But in the end, the Notre Dame women’s basketball talent and size wore down Fordham, 67-35, Monday night at the Purcell Pavilion.

The victory propels the Irish to a semifinal round battle Thursday night at home in the preseason WNIT against Green Bay, a Sunday victor over Arkansas Little Rock.

“It’s a great thing to learn we can win ugly,” said Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw. “We missed a lot of shots, were frustrated early, but we kept our composure thanks to Lindsay (Allen). She’s just so steady she didn’t let anybody get down.”

Allen contributed across the board. She went 5-for-5 from the field and 3-for-4 from the line to share the team-high in points (13) with Arike Ogunbowale. Allen also had six rebounds, five assists and a steal in a team-high 37 minutes.

One impressive statistic for Notre Dame was the play of its defense. The Rams were limited to 23.1 percent shooting, including 2-for-18 from the 3-point line. It was the best defensive effort for the Irish since they held Georgia Tech to 22 percent shooting last January. Fordham played well defensively too, limiting the Irish to an uncharacteristically low 42.4 percent on 25 of 59 from the floor.

One thing McGraw might want to do is keep former ND men’s coach Digger Phelps away from visiting teams. Fordham coach Stephanie Gaitley said Phelps dropped by the Rams’ shoot-around and talked of his coaching days as an underdog at Fordham.

“He said they were small, but I think they finished 27-3,” Gaitley said.

Kristina (Coco) Nelson had another solid game for the Irish and in McGraw’s eyes was “the player of the game.”

After Fordham trimmed a Notre Dame lead to eight points in the third period, Nelson hit a basket off an offensive rebound and added three free throws, before Kathryn Westbeld scored to push the ND lead back to 16 points. Nelson was especially active on the backboards during that third quarter.

“When Coco made those hustle plays it kind of revved us up,” said Allen. “I thought we were lethargic at times, but we continued from there.”

Nelson finished with nine points and seven rebounds in 18 minutes of play. Westbeld, who turned up the intensity defensively and on the boards in the second half, led the Irish with 11 rebounds.

“I knew my shots weren’t falling (3-for-10) so I had to pick it up somewhere else,'' she said. "I wanted to do it on defense and get some rebounds to get us going.”

Notre Dame’s Brianna Turner is the mainstay in the Irish post. And teams have been overloading on her early in the season. Nonetheless Turner scored 10 points and grabbed eight rebounds.

“We are going to see what teams will do against us,” McGraw said. “It seems like being physical is what teams are doing right now. Bri is really getting beat up inside — all the posts are. People are trying to battle us with physical play and it will take us some time to adjust to that.”

Gaitley was pleased with her team’s effort.

“Their size and talent just overpowered us at the end,'' she said. "We have to play defense to stay around. In the fourth quarter we just ran out of gas. They (the Irish) are worthy of their No. 1 ranking.”

From the narrow 36-28 lead with three minutes to play in the third quarter, the Irish outscored the Rams 31-8 the rest of the game, a run that included a 20-4 fourth quarter.

“The other day we couldn’t miss a shot,” McGraw said. “Today we couldn’t make one. I think a third of it was us – we missed some easy shots. A third of it was their defense and the rest was the pace. They wanted to take so much time on offense by the time we got it on the offensive end we just wanted to shoot it.”

G’mrice Davis led Fordham with nine points and a game-high 15 rebounds. It was her task to take on Turner and Nelson in the post.

“When we cut it (the lead) to eight it was a big boost to our confidence,” said Davis. “We felt we were right there and thought we could take it. But they kept coming and wore us down.”

NOTRE DAME 67, FORDHAM 36

At South Bend

FORDHAM (36): G'mrice Davis 4-12 1-4 9, Lauren Holden 1-6 0-0 2, Danielle Burns 2-8 3-4 8, Hannah Missry 1-7 1-1 4, Kate Kreslina 1-6 2-2, 4, Asnate Fomina 1-9 3-4 5, Danielle Padovano 1-1 0-0 2, Anna Kelley 1-3, 0-0 2, Mary Goulding 0-0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 12-52 10-15 36

NOTRE DAME (67): Brianna Turner 5-10 0-2 10, Kathryn Westbeld 3-10 0-1 6, Marina Mabrey 2-9 3-3 7, Lindsay Allen 5-5 3-4 13, Arike Ogunbowale 5-11 3-3 13, Mychal Johnson 1-2 0-0 2, Ali Patberg 0-0 0-0 0, Kristina Nelson 3-6 3-5 9, Erin Boley 1-6 4-4 7, Diamond Thompson 0-0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 25-59 16-22 67

Fordham 12 20 32 36

ND 20 34 47 67

3-point: Fordham 2-19 (Burns, Missry); ND 1-8 (Boley); rebounds: Fordham 31 (Davis 15), ND 46 (Westbeld 11, Nelson 7); turnovers: Fordham 18 (Fomina 5), ND 16 (Nelson 3, Turner 3); fouls (fouled out): Fordham 25 (Kreslina), ND 16

Officials: Pualani Spurlock, Bob Enterline, Kevin Dillard

Att.: 7,540

Notre Dame power forward Brianna Turner battles for a loose ball with Fordham’s Lauren Holden (2) during Monday’s game at Purcell Pavilion.Tribune Photo/MICHAEL CATERINA
Notre Dame’s Kathryn Westbeld falls onto Fordham’s Hannah Missry while fighting for a rebound during Monday’s game at Purcell pavilion. Tribune Photo/MICHAEL CATERINA