Jackie Young suffers broken nose, expected to play for Notre Dame vs. DePaul

Anthony Anderson
Tribune Correspondent

SOUTH BEND — Notre Dame’s Kathryn Westbeld spoke fondly Friday afternoon of how these next few days on an emptied-out campus are unique to “kind of bond as a team.”

And she spoke glowingly of “the adversity we’ve overcome” already.

Not much later, the Irish were slapped with a new dose of adversity, and another new development to bond over.

Star sophomore Jackie Young suffered a broken nose on an inadvertent shot sustained Friday in practice, Notre Dame spokesperson Josh Bates confirmed Saturday.

Young, according to Bates, is still expected to play when the No. 2-ranked Irish (9-1) host up-tempo DePaul (7-3) in a 1 p.m. game Sunday at Purcell Pavilion.

If Young is compromised in her effectiveness, though, it’s a compromise that comes to ND’s No. 2 scorer at 14.5 points per game, and its No. 2 rebounder at 7.7.

And if she’s restricted at all, it’s another dent to the depth of a club that has little to spare.

Already, Brianna Turner, Mikayla Vaughn and Mychal Johnson continue to be out for the season due to knee injuries, leaving ND at eight scholarship players, while Westbeld continues to work through the pain associated with an ankle injury suffered last season.

It’s been a chaotic, draining couple of months.

“Ten games in and it feels like we’re already midway through the season, but I’m extremely proud of my teammates and the adversity we’ve overcome,” said Westbeld, a senior and returning captain. “With all the road trips (eight of the first 10 games have been away from home) and all the Top 25 teams (five such opponents), we’ve shown great resiliency, played really hard, trusted the process and have come out with the majority of the wins.”

Notre Dame’s return to game action Sunday comes on the heels of several days off from formal workouts this past week to concentrate on final exams.

The team’s first mandatory gathering since last Saturday’s win at Penn was Friday’s practice.

“It’s tough,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said of the abrupt gear shift involved. “We finish up at Penn and their minds immediately switch over to focusing on academics. So they’ve been studying really hard, probably not getting a lot of sleep, not eating well.”

Then the end of those exams has been followed by another abrupt gear shift, this time to a six-day window in which basketball is about the only thing going on.

While most on campus have already departed for the holiday break, players will remain through Wednesday’s matinee home contest against Marquette.

Then they’ll be on their own from that Dec. 20 date until having to be back on campus Dec. 26, two days in front of the Dec. 28 Atlantic Coast Conference opener at home against Syracuse.

Westbeld, for one, doesn’t mind her holiday departure being delayed a bit.

“I love winter break, especially just being here,” she said. “It’s just basketball and whatever you want to do outside of that, but there’s not the outside stress of school, professors and everything else. I think it’s a great time to focus on ourselves and kind of bond as a team.”

Westbeld said she believes most of her teammates feel the same way.

“We’re here for basketball — school and basketball,” Westbeld said. “School, we really had that focus this week and I think we were all able to get it done. That comes first, but most of us are here at Notre Dame because of basketball, too.

“You know it’s our true love, so you just have to be grateful for the opportunity. You only have four years, most of us, so you’ve got to take advantage and have fun with it and remember why you’re here.”

For Westbeld, that mindset continues to entail the complication of dealing with pain. She has started the last four games, and averaged 24.3 minutes in those contests, but she continues to have a limited practice schedule.

“We’ve hit the plateau where the pain level hasn’t gotten worse, but it really hasn’t gotten much better,” Westbeld said. “We’re trying to increase practice and see how it reacts to that. So far, it hasn’t really shown a negative effect, so we’re just trying to work back up.”

Westbeld acknowledged Friday that she has continued to ponder the possibility that she may never be completely pain-free before the season is over, but added that she’s managing.

“I take some pain medicine before (games), so that helps,” Westbeld said, “but I just do the best I can with it.”

Dealing with DePaul

The Blue Demons lead the nation in made 3-pointers per game at 13.4 and are second in total attempts. They’ve drained 134-of-380 overall for 35.3 percent.

They’re also about as balanced as teams come with six players averaging from 11.1 to 14.1 points, including a pair of individuals tied for the club lead at that 14.1.

“It’s the most balanced team we’ve played so far, and probably the most balanced team they’ve had in awhile,” McGraw said. “They score a ton of points, they shoot a lot of 3s, really get up and down the floor. Transition defense is going to be an issue, as well as guarding the 3-point line.”

The host Demons knocked off then-No. 21 Oklahoma 111-108 in overtime early in the season.

More recently, on Thursday, they shook off an early 20-2 deficit like it never happened, cruising past host Northwestern 92-63.

DePaul’s also played No. 1 Connecticut, losing that one 93-69 at home on Dec. 8, five days after the Irish fell to the Huskies 80-71 on the road.

“They always give us a good game,” said Westbeld, who is 4-0 in her career against the Demons, but with narrow wins that include just 95-90 two years ago and 94-93 in 2014.

One spot statistically in which ND appears to have a considerable advantage is rebounding. The Irish are at plus-11.6 per game, while DePaul’s at minus-5.6.

WOMEN’S BASKETBALL

WHO: DePaul (7-3) vs. No. 2 Notre Dame (9-1).

WHERE: Purcell Pavilion (9,149), Notre Dame.

WHEN: Sunday, 1 p.m.

TICKETS: Available, $5 to $15.

RADIO: Pulse (96.9 / 92.1 FM).

WEB: ACC Network Extra.

TV: None.

NOTING: DePaul features six players averaging 11.1 to 14.1 points per game, led by junior Mart’e Grays (14.1 ppg, 20-of-48 on 3-pointers), junior Ashton Millender (14.1 ppg, 31-of-80 on 3s), senior Amarah Coleman (12.7 ppg, 3.7 assists per game) and sophomore Kelly Campbell (11.8 ppg, 5.5 apg, 2.5 steals per game). … ND's Jessica Shepard is coming off a career-high six blocked shots at Penn. … Notre Dame has won nine straight meetings against DePaul, a virtually annual opponent. Irish coach Muffet McGraw, after standing 1-5 at one point against Blue Demons coach Doug Bruno, is now 18-12 against him.

QUOTING: “I don’t know how that feels, but we are so excited to be home. It’s going to be nice to play in front of our fans. We have an early game Wednesday (3 p.m. against Marquette), so hopefully we’re able to get some people able to come out to that one.”  — Muffet McGraw, Notre Dame coach, on her team getting set to play consecutive home games for the first time this season.

Notre Dame's Jackie Young in action during the second half of a 66-54 Irish victory at Penn on Dec. 9. (AP Photo/CHRIS SZAGOLA)