Notre Dame has chance to avenge earlier loss to Syracuse

Anthony Anderson
Tribune Correspondent

SOUTH BEND — Muffet McGraw never wants to experience what’s required to create this situation, yet she likes this situation.

The situation to which the Notre Dame women’s basketball coach is referring to is the challenge of attempting to avenge a loss.

The Irish (10-17, 5-10 Atlantic Coast Conference) have that rare opportunity Sunday when surging Syracuse (15-11, 9-6) visits Purcell Pavilion for a noon tip.

The Orange won the first meeting 74-63 in overtime seven weeks ago, charging back from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit with a game-tying 3-pointer by Kiara Lewis at six seconds left in regulation.

“We haven’t been in this situation much, because we haven’t lost much over the years, but it always drives me,” McGraw said before Saturday afternoon’s practice.

“So I like it. You can prepare differently,” McGraw said. “When you win, you’re kind of like, eh, now what do we do? We already did what we wanted, and it worked, and you know the other team’s going to come back with something new.”

Strictly within regular seasons, McGraw is not kidding about how uncommon this situation has been over the last decade-plus. That’s mostly because the Irish have beaten almost everybody almost every time out, and because regular-season rematches haven’t been particularly common under conference scheduling patterns.

In fact, Notre Dame has not avenged a regular-season loss with a regular-season win since 2007-08, when the Irish were nipped 81-80 at home by Big East rival DePaul and then won 66-64 a month later in Chicago.

Over its six seasons in the ACC prior to this one, ND registered a dozen regular-season sweeps in a dozen tries.

The Irish also swept their handful of Big East regular-season double opponents over the two seasons prior to that, including UConn in each of those seasons.

They were swept by the Huskies in the 2010-11 regular season — which is also the last time before this season that they even possessed an opportunity to avenge a loss within the regular season.

This season, though, the Irish have already had two shots at reversing defeats. They didn’t cash in on either, recently losing rematches at Boston College and Louisville.

Unlike the BC and Cardinal contests, however, they’ll at least get Sunday’s at home.

“We should’ve won that game,” ND point guard Marta Sniezek said Saturday of the first meeting against Syracuse. “It was very close, but they did a good job at the end (of regulation), and overtime wasn’t close, but I think in regulation, we had that game in our hands and let it go, so hopefully we’ve learned since we’ve played them last.”

Following the 3-pointer by Lewis, Anaya Peoples’ potential game-winning attempt for the Irish was blocked by Digna Strautmane, before Sniezek made a steal and got off a desperation trey that was off the mark as regulation expired.

The Orange then ruled the extra session, 11-3, and in the process snapped Notre Dame’s remarkable run of wins in overtime games at eight over a span of eight years.

Tough, but not

contagious

Sniezek, after enduring what appeared an especially rough night on her beat-up body during Thursday’s 68-62 loss to Virginia Tech, insisted Saturday that she’s fine.

“I feel great,” Sniezek said with a coy smile. “Another day. Living the dream.”

Added the grad-student transfer from Stanford, “I was disappointed with the outcome. That’s probably what hurt me more than anything.”

Sniezek has drawn a program-record 30 opposition charging fouls this season, to go with plenty of similar plays that were not whistled in her favor, and she hasn’t shied away from throwing herself at loose balls, either.

“She has that grit and toughness you want in a defender, somebody that’s not afraid to use their body to take a charge,” McGraw said. “You need that. You hope that it’s a contagious thing for the whole team.”

Has it been?

“It has not,” McGraw said.

Notre Dame freshman Sam Brunelle was 6-of-10 from three-point land against Virginia Tech Thursday night.

WOMEN’S BASKETBALL

WHO: Syracuse (15-11, 9-6 ACC) vs. Notre Dame (10-17, 5-10).

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

WHEN: Sunday, noon.

TICKETS: Available, $5 to $25.

TV: ACC Network.

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

SYRACUSE VS. NOTRE DAME

NOTING: The Orange have won five straight games, including a 59-51 victory two weeks ago over No. 5-ranked ACC leader Louisville. … Syracuse pacesetters include junior guard Kiara Lewis (17.5 points per game, 4.9 assists, 1.8 steals), 6-1 sophomore swing Emily Engstler (9.5 ppg, 9.9 rebounds, 1.7 blocks) and 6-2 junior swing Digna Strautmane (9.3 ppg). Four other players average 6.3 to 7.9 points each, including 6-2 sophomore Maeva Djaldi-Tabdi at 7.9 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in just 16.5 minutes per outing. … As a team, the Orange average 6.2 blocks per game, seventh in the nation. … Irish leaders include Destinee Walker (14.7 ppg), Sam Brunelle (13.3 ppg, 5.7 rpg), Katlyn Gilbert (13.3 ppg, 2.0 steals), Mikki Vaughn (10.3 ppg, 7.0 rpg) and Marta Sniezek (5.3 assists, 4.5 ppg). … Brunelle’s coming off a 6-for-10 performance from 3-point land, the six makes being the second-most by a Notre Dame freshman behind Alicia Ratay’s seven in February 2000. … The Irish, besides leading the overall series 34-3, are 16-0 all-time at home against Syracuse. They were also 6-0 all-time at home against Virginia Tech prior to Thursday’s loss and 16-0 all-time at home against Boston College before falling to the Eagles in January. … Notre Dame is 4-9 at Purcell Pavilion this season, two more defeats than it suffered in any other home season, and one more than the Irish experienced over the previous decade while going 160-8. … Sunday will serve as ND’s annual Pink Zone game, an initiative that raises funds for education, screenings, support and research against breast cancer within the community.

QUOTING: “I think the biggest thing is preparing for next year. What can we get better at right now? Like at the end of (Thursday’s 68-62 loss) we were running our late-game stuff like it was a one-point game just to get some experience at it. So we’re just constantly trying to get better, and then I think definitely pride. I think that’s what we’re playing for, just competing every minute.” — Muffet McGraw, Notre Dame coach, on what incentives remain this season besides the ACC Tourney