Notre Dame braces for up-tempo DePaul

Anthony Anderson
Tribune Correspondent

SOUTH BEND — The shot clock will be merely a “decoration,” according to Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw, when No. 16-ranked DePaul has the basketball Wednesday night at Purcell Pavilion.

The burning question is whether Sam Brunelle’s presence will be one as well.

The Irish received encouraging news on their star freshman after she underwent an MRI on her right knee Monday, but she could sit out the matchup against the Blue Demons.

“She’s questionable for Wednesday, but she will be fine after that,” McGraw said of Brunelle, who was not at the start of ND’s practice Tuesday afternoon and unavailable to media.

“I don’t know if she’s going to practice today or not,” McGraw said as she awaited word from trainer Anne Marquez. “It’s day to day, so we’ll see if she practices. If not, we’ll see if she can play tomorrow without practicing.”

Minus the 6-foot-2 forward, Notre Dame would be down to six available scholarship players.

A hobbling Brunelle came out of Sunday’s 81-57 loss at No. 4 Connecticut for good just 27 seconds into the second half, shortly after sharing that she had discomfort in her right knee.

Brunelle had played all but one minute of the first half. It wasn’t initially apparent at the intermission that an injury may have already occurred.

“She talked to the trainer on her way back into the arena at halftime,” McGraw said, “so she didn’t have a lot of time to really look at in the locker room, and then we just took a quick glance (of Brunelle in the game) and I knew she couldn’t go, so we took her out immediately.”

Immediacy describes DePaul (7-1).

The up-tempo Demons’ only loss is 98-77 at now-No. 4 Oregon State (8-0). They’ve won five in a row since, including an 89-83 decision over now-No. 25 Miami.

“They’re very athletic, they run the floor. It’s pretty much like an AAU game,” Irish sophomore guard Katlyn Gilbert said Tuesday. “A lot of us haven’t played AAU in awhile, so just getting back to that, it could be a little tough for us.”

DePaul ranks second in the nation in made 3-pointers per game at 11.6. The Demons’ 32.3% outside the arc is middle of the road, but that hasn’t kept them from chucking up 36 such tries per outing to go with 54.2% on 2s.

Their resulting net shooting effectiveness of 51.4% is accompanied by a net takeaway margin of plus-9.0 — ninth-best in the nation — and those takeaways are often converted into easy baskets.

“I’m not so sure on our end how high the score can go,” McGraw said, “but definitely, they’re a team that wants to put up a lot of shots. They’re gonna press, they’re gonna try to make the game a track meet and make us play fast.”

The Irish (5-6) enter with losses in four of their last five games. They will be trying to avoid the program’s first three-game skid in more than 11 years.

ND’s been plagued this season by a lack of pride in defense, according to McGraw, by slow starts — in stark contrast, DePaul’s best quarter is the first at plus-9.4 points per contest — and by poor shooting, landing at a parched 21.7% on 3-pointers (35-of-161) to go with 44.8% on overall net field goal effectiveness.

The coach says she has considered down-shifting the offense, but doesn’t believe that’s the solution.

“The only thing (that’s been) worse than us scoring the ball is us trying to score the ball with 10 seconds left on the shot clock,” McGraw said, “so I don’t think slowing it down is the answer for this team. I think offensive rebounding is probably what we need to do more of, because I think we’re getting really good shots. We’re just not making them.”

ND’s grabbed 104 offensive rebounds this season, to 193 by its opponents.

If Brunelle doesn’t play against the Demons, that will remove the team’s overall No. 2 rebounder. It won’t, though, necessarily alter how the other players plan to attack.

“We all know what we need to do and what we bring to the team,” Gilbert said. “I don’t think anybody should go out and try to play outside of their abilities.”

Marta the machine

Feisty and fearless Irish graduate transfer point guard Marta Sniezek played all 40 minutes for a second straight game Sunday and even tossed in a career-high 14 points against the nation’s most celebrated program.

ESPN commentators made mention of Sniezek, nursing a sore right shoulder, grimacing on a longer pass, but she responded to that notion Tuesday like it was foreign to her.

“I think everyone deals with aches and pains,” Sniezek said. “It comes with the season. I’m doing well. I’m excited. Big game tomorrow. … I’m good to go. I mean, I played 40 minutes, so I’m ready.”

Not brought aboard at ND to necessarily handle much of the scoring load, Sniezek has nonetheless cranked up her production of late. After averaging 2.0 points and making just 1-of-11 field goals in her first five games, she’s averaged 8.3 and hit 17-of-26 in the last six.

“I’m just trying to play my best game every single game,” Sniezek said of her career high coming against UConn, “so whatever that means, making defensive stops, scoring, whatever it may be, I’m just trying to do whatever the team needs.”

Sniezek continues to easily lead the Irish in assists at 5.3 per game, she’s second among all Atlantic Coast Conference players at 36.3 minutes per contest, and her 14 drawn charges are just five shy of Kristina Nelson’s unofficial single-season team record of 19 two seasons ago.

Sniezek has coaxed at least one charge in each of the last five games.

Notre Dame’s Katlyn Gilbert (10) dishes out a pass during against Tennessee on Nov. 11 at Purcell Pavilionndwbb11112019_26.jpg


WHO: No. 16 DePaul (7-1) vs. Notre Dame (5-6).

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

WHEN: Wednesday, 6:30 p.m.

TICKETS: Available, $5 to $18.

TV: ACC Network.

RADIO: Pulse (103.1 / 96.9 / 92.1 FM).


NOTING: Blue Demon leaders include senior forward Chante Stonewall (17.4 points per game, 6.0 rebounds, 50-of-88 on 2-pointers, 3.8 steals, which ranks ninth in the nation), sophomore guard Sonya Morris (16.5 ppg, 3.3 assists), sophomore guard Lexi Held (14.0 ppg) and senior guard Kelly Campbell (pacing the team in both rebounds at 7.4 and assists at 6.4 to go with 7.9 points). Four other players are averaging 5.7 to 9.6 points each, including Deja Church (9.6), who has missed the last three games after suffering an ankle injury. … Irish leaders included Katlyn Gilbert (14.9 ppg, 1.9 spg), Anaya Peoples (13.8 ppg, 7.6 rpg), Sam Brunelle (13.0 ppg, 6.5 rpg), who is questionable after suffering a knee injury Sunday, and Destinee Walker (12.5 ppg). … Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw and DePaul’s Doug Bruno, face off for the 33rd time, including their days as fellow Big East members. McGraw’s gone against only UConn’s Geno Auriemma (51 times) more often in her Irish career. The McGraw-Bruno series has been a roller coaster. He won five of the first six meetings. McGraw compiled aN 8-7 edge in the next 15, and she has swept all of the last 11 for a 20-12 advantage. The Demons last beat ND in February 2011, 70-69, and last won at Notre Dame in January 2008, 81-80. … Wednesday’s game will feature the annual teddy bear toss at halftime. Fans are encouraged to bring new stuffed animals to be donated to a children’s charity.

QUOTING: “I think right now, since we’re not winning, that I shouldn’t look at the bright side of things. We should figure out why we aren’t winning. I’m not looking too much at (achievements). I’m just trying to see what I can do better to help the team.” — Katlyn Gilbert, Notre Dame guard, on her 11-game double-digit scoring streak.