A little more intensity and effort the remedy for Notre Dame's regression

Ken Klimek
Tribune Correspondent

Don't feel sorry for Notre Dame.

Sure, the Irish women's basketball team was upset at North Carolina State Thursday night.

But coach Muffet McGraw does not need to rewrite the script for the rest of the season.

After all, Notre Dame is 56-2 in Atlantic Coast Conference games, including the postseason tournaments in its first three-plus years in the league. And the Irish had won their previous 35 league contests before the Wolfpack upset. It was the first time in nearly six years the Irish had lost two games in the same month (February, 2011, in road games at Connecticut and DePaul).

McGraw does know some things need to change, has talked to her players about those items and hopes they will respond accordingly when they return to ACC action Monday night, traveling for their sixth straight road game – this one in Atlanta against Georgia Tech, 11-2.

After that contest, the Irish return home to meet Wake Forest Thursday night at Purcell Pavilion.

The 12-2 Irish have to play with more intensity and effort, according to McGraw.

“That is something that has to come from each individual player,” she said. “We can sub more to try to play the people who are playing hard, but it's not just one or two people. I think the whole team needs to improve its effort.”

That means the Irish need more energy on both sides of the ball.

Notre Dame has allowed only 70 points or more twice this season and both resulted in losses.

Offensively, the Irish average 80.5 points a game for the season, but managed only 61 against Connecticut and 62 against North Carolina State.

Sophomore Marina Mabrey scored 22 to lead the Irish in the recent loss, including 11 in the final quarter when Notre Dame trimmed a 19-point deficit to five.

McGraw saw too much one-on-one basketball, but understood why it happened.

“I think when that happens, when you can't score, everyone says 'Well let me try and help. I will see what I can do.' That takes you a little out of the rhythm and flow of the offense,” she said. “It's a problem of trying to do too much and pressing to make something happen. It's not a negative, selfish one-on-one thing. It's more of a 'We are really struggling, maybe I can help' problem.”

The Irish do have plenty of offensive firepower yet McGraw is looking for more from her freshmen, Jackie Young and Erin Boley.

“We need them to contribute a little more,'' she said. "We need somebody to step up.”

Lindsay Allen is the lone Notre Dame senior starter and needs to continue her solid play at the point. Don't expect any major changes in personnel use unless the Irish get off to another slow start.

“I think everybody gives us their best shot anyway and so now the door is open,'' McGraw said. ""Everybody will think they can beat us. So we have to set the tone early in the game. We have to be on it right from the tip. If we don't see that we will have to sub right away.”

It's a long season, and one loss will not decide the ACC title. But the comfort level has dropped some.

“There is no margin for error now, especially on the road,” McGraw said.

After all, seven of the Top 25 teams in the nation are in the ACC.

When the Irish meet the Yellow Jackets, they will be playing a team that has given them problems in the post in the recent past. Additionally, Machelle Joseph's Georgia Tech team has “good enough shooters to stretch you out,” said McGraw.

“We have to be able to handle their pressure. They are changing defenses a bit more this year. We have to be able to handle the pressure. We just have to execute and play and do what we want to do, which we haven't been able to do lately.''

This is Tech's first ACC test of the season. Joseph is a 1992 Purdue grad and a member of the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame. She helped the Boilers during her years there to four consecutive trips to the NCAA tournament.

Notre Dame women's basketball head coach Muffet McGraw hopes her team matches her intensity when the Irish road trip marathon continues Monday night at Georgia Tech. (AP Photo/RICK OSENTOSKI)

WHERE: McCamish Pavilion, Atlanta, Ga.

WHEN: Monday at 7 p.m.

INTERNET: Game can be seen online at WatchESPN.com (formerly ESPN 3) or through the WatchESPN app.tv

RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) in South Bend

TELEVISION: None

GAME NOTES: Notre Dame leads the series with Georgia Tech, having won all six previous meetings ... The Irish continue to be led in scoring by junior Brianna Turner with her 15.3 average. She is followed by sophomores Arike Ogunbowale (14.4) and Marina Mabrey (12.9). But Lindsay Allen and Kathryn Westbeld contribute regularly with their marks of 9.8 and 9.1 ... Turner leads the club in rebounding at 6.9 per game with Westbeld second at 6.7 ... Georgia Tech features three double figure scorers. Zaire O’Neil leads the Yellow Jackets at 11.0, Francesca Pan at 10.7 and Imani Tilford at 10.5.