Lesar: Was that Jackie Young's 'lightbulb moment' for Notre Dame?

Al Lesar
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND – Every freshman basketball player has that “lightbulb” moment.

Jackie Young’s may have come Monday night.

The 6-foot guard, as usual, was good offensively – 16 points and an assist – but made inroads defensively and on the boards (7 rebounds, 4 offensive) as she played a key role in No. 7-ranked Notre Dame’s 85-66 win over No. 12 Louisville.

“That was the best game she’s had all year,” said Irish coach Muffet McGraw. “She looked really confident driving the ball.

“I’ve been waiting for this game. She has too. It’s going to fuel her confidence.”

Sooooooo … Was this what a “lightbulb moment” looks like?

“It’s dim, but we turned the switch a little bit,” said McGraw.

“Now that I’m getting more reps I’m getting more confident,” said Young, who got over ankle and thumb injuries to finally get some extended work.

Young has been the special project for associate coach Beth Cunningham, in charge of the Irish wings. Cunningham has made it her mission to acclimate Young to college ball.

In game No. 25, it’s starting to sink in.

“(Cunningham) motivated me for this game in some film sessions,” Young said. “I’m picking up the offense and defense (better). That helps me with my confidence.”

“All the way around, (Young) needs to be more assertive,” said Cunningham. “I don’t feel like (the instruction has) been any more the last few days. It’s been that way the whole season. Maybe it’s starting to click a little bit more and sink in.

“She has such a huge upside. She brings such value to our team. We can get so much out of her. She really stepped up tonight. She was assertive. She did so much defensively.

“She’s so versatile for us. She can score. She can pass. She can defend. She can rebound.

“Not to take a back seat – to be assertive and play to her ability. We saw more of a glimpse of that tonight.”

That’s not to say this was a perfect effort.

Young was more aggressive on the defensive end than she’s been all season, especially in the first half. She was more cognizant of being a factor on the boards, but also may have passed up some open 3-point opportunities (she missed her only 3-point attempt) that she will have to cash in on in the future.

“I had some open 3s, there’s always another chance to score,” said Young. “My only concern is that I’m working the ball and looking for the right set at the right time.

“It all starts with the defensive end. We really played well as a team (in the second quarter, with a 50-28 lead at halftime). We were very aggressive. The ball was falling. We were getting some defensive stops.”

And then there’s that rebounding thing.

“Coach is really putting an emphasis on crashing the boards, getting good position,” Young said. “Discipline is a big part of it.”

It was a start for Young, taking a big step toward being a multi-dimensional weapon for the Irish.

“There’s more in there, though,” Cunningham said.

The lightbulb can still be brighter.

Notre Dame’s Jackie Young (5) puts up a jumper from the baseline against Louisville, February 6, 2017 in South Bend. Tribune Photo/BECKY MALEWITZ