Erin Boley eyes more boards for Notre Dame women's basketball

Ken Klimek
Tribune Correspondent

SOUTH BEND — After a month away, Notre Dame finally gets to play on a familiar floor again – backed by its loyal lime-green wearing fans.

“It feels good to be home,” said Irish coach Muffet McGraw Wednesday before practicing for Thursday night’s matchup against Wake Forest at Purcell Pavilion. “I hope we shoot the ball better than we have in the past couple of games (average of 41.1 percent from the field and a combined 9-for-21 from the free throw line).”

Notre Dame better enjoy this home stay. It goes back on the road to play Miami Sunday. The Hurricanes are ranked 14th and a contender for this year’s ACC crown. Including the last stretch of six road games, 13-2 Notre Dame is in the midst of playing 10 of 12 games on the road.

“This is the year I don’t think you will see an undefeated champion in the ACC,” said McGraw. “You better take care of your home court. It’s going to be tough on the road.”

One player who has grown into a helping role is 6-foot-2 freshman Erin Boley, who has been getting more minutes of late and has been averaging 6.5 points a game.

“Erin is looking for her shot. I am happy with what she is doing,” said McGraw. “Erin can get her shots. She understands where her shots are going to come from. She has been one who knows what she can do to help the team.”

And many times that comes from Bolen burying a 3-point shot.

“Her issue is rebounding,” said McGraw.

Boley agrees.

“I've been trying to get in there and rebound more,'' said Boley, averaging 2.5 in 12.6 minutes a game. "A lot of it has to do with me being in the right spot and not thinking too much. Sometimes I know I didn’t get in there when I should be just crashing.”

The Kentucky player of the year and a Gatorade All-American as a senior in high school is feeling more comfortable and has adjusted to the demands of collegiate basketball.

“Physically, I feel I am holding up pretty well,” Boley said. “They do a good job of taking care of us. I feel I was prepared for it to be a lengthy season. As a freshman, you want to adjust any way you can. I don’t mind the road trips, don’t mind the travel. It’s different from high school. You just have to adjust and get used to it.”

Boley has played both a wing and high post position for the Irish, and enjoys both.

“I am pretty comfortable at the three (wing) and also in the lane. I just want to do whatever coach needs from me.”

Boley does not worry about the shooting backgrounds in different arenas.

“For me, it is all about taking my time, not rushing the shot and focusing on my form. I try not to think about the gym.”

McGraw will be looking to Boley to help polish the half-court offense.

“We were 2-for-11 in the fourth quarter,” (at Georgia Tech) said McGraw. “Even the third quarter has not been great for us this year. I think we are getting the right shots. We are not getting the percentage we need.”

One part of the Notre Dame game that has helped has been its defense. The Irish held the Yellow Jackets to 38 points in the Monday victory — the fewest points Tech has scored at home in 11 years.

The Irish swarmed the lane, and used a lot of zone defense against Georgia Tech.

“We had to get out and defend the 3-point line,” said McGraw. “We did play a lot of zone. It is something we are looking at to see if it is our best defense.”

Being in the zone helped Irish star Brianna Turner. Without chasing an opponent to the top of the key defensively, Turner was camped inside. The result? She had six blocked shots and 11 rebounds, both instrumental in the Irish victory.

The game will be the first taste of ACC action this season for Wake Forest, who is coached by Jen Hoover, now 67-75 in her fifth season at the school. Hoover was a three-time All-ACC player for Wake Forest during her playing days (1987 to 1991).

Notre Dame’s Erin Boley (22) drives against Danielle Burns (22) during the Fordham at Notre Dame women's basketball game at Purcell Pavilion in South Bend Monday, Nov. 14, 2016. Tribune Photo/MICHAEL CATERINA

WHO: No. 7 Notre Dame (13-2, 1-1) vs. Wake Forest (9-4, 0-0).

WHERE: Purcell Pavilion (9,149)

WHEN: Thursday at 7 p.m.

TICKETS: Available by calling (574) 631-7356, going online to UND.com/buytickets or visiting the Gate 9 ticket windows Thursday.

TELEVISION: None

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

GAME NOTES: Notre Dame has won all four meetings with the Demon Deacons ... The Irish currently have what is ranked as the second toughest schedule in the nation. Opponents have a .754 winning percentage. ... That ranks second only to Connecticut — .767. . . Notre Dame continues to be led in scoring by Brianna Turner with her 14.9 average. Arike Ogunbowale is at 14.7 and Marina Mabrey at 12.7 ... Wake Forest features four players averaging in double figures – Amber Campbell at 14.5, Ariel Stephenson at 13.3, Elisa Penn at 12.9 and 6-foot-1 Milan Quinn at 11.1. Quinn, the only senior in that group, also leads the team in rebounding with an average of 10.3 boards a game