Women's basketball: Irish dominate as McGraw is inducted into ND Ring of Honor
SOUTH BEND — Former Notre Dame women's basketball coach Muffet McGraw was in for a big surprise Sunday afternoon.
Purdue Fort Wayne had momentary visions of pulling off one on Notre Dame, too, but the slow-starting Irish ignited soon enough to pull away for a 78-41 women’s college basketball win Sunday afternoon at Purcell Pavilion.
A 14-minute pregame ceremony saluting McGraw as the latest inductee into the ND basketball Ring of Honor was capped by athletic director Jack Swarbrick declaring to the crowd:
“The banner’s only the first part. There will be a statue outside Purcell Pavilion.”
McGraw-adoring Irish fans erupted in celebration of an announcement that many of them have been wondering about, whispering about and wishing on for years.
McGraw later said she was “overwhelmed” by the gesture. She described it as “a football thing” and something “I never imagined.”
As for the game, ND didn’t score its first basket until 5:27 in, after PFW had five points, yet still blistered the shorthanded Mastodons over the long haul.
Six Irish players netted between 10 and 12 points apiece as Notre Dame improved to 9-2.
Junior and former LaPorte High star Riley Ott ed all players with 21 points for the Mastodons (4-6).
► “I was overwhelmed with word of the statue,” McGraw said after the ceremony. “That was something that … I never imagined it. Whenever people would joke about it, I was like, ‘That’s a football thing. It’s not gonna happen.’”
Sunday’s tribute opened with about a four-minute video, followed by a 70-second standing ovation as McGraw appeared, and then the unveiling of the banner in the rafters honoring her.
The Naismith Hall of Famer with two national titles then spoke to the crowd for about six minutes.
“If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that we don’t accomplish anything in life by ourselves,” said McGraw, who retired in 2020 after 33 seasons at ND. “Whenever you do something good, if you look around, you’re going to see so many people that supported you for so long. I was up here the most because I had all of you supporting me throughout this career, and I want to thank you for helping to build this program. You created an atmosphere that made recruits want to come and play here.”
McGraw likewise thanked her players, administration, staff and the band among others, along with husband Matt, son Murphy, daughter-in-law Francesca and her two sisters who have steadfastly followed the team through the years.
“Family’s the most important thing in the world,” McGraw said, “and to have the love and support of these people is what’s kept me going in all the tough times.”
Turning to her husband, “the love of my life,” McGraw said “your name should be up here” as part of “a great team.”
The Purcell Pavilion court was adorned with temporary silhouette-style images depicting McGraw in her familiar crouch that was a staple at Irish games.
“I think I wanna be standing,” McGraw said later with a laugh when asked how she might want her statue to appear. “I don’t know what it’s gonna look like, but it will be fun deciding.”
McGraw, the seventh ND basketball Ring of Honor inductee on the women’s side, joined former pupils Ruth Riley-Hunter, Skylar Diggins-Smith, Niele Ivey, Beth (Morgan) Cunningham, Kayla McBride and Natalie Achonwa.
The Irish moved to 7-0 in games in which they’ve conducted induction ceremonies.
► An oddly sluggish start didn’t matter.
Notre Dame did not score until 5:27 into the game, after missing its first six shots, committing three turnovers and falling behind 5-0.
That first basket, though, triggered an 18-2 Irish run for an 18-7 lead by the opening seconds of the second quarter.
ND pulled away with a 19-0 spree over the last 2:29 of the third period and first 2:41 of the fourth for a 67-35 spread.
Maya Dodson, Olivia Miles and Sonia Citron scored 12 points each for the Irish.
Dodson added five blocks over just 20 minutes, Miles dished five assists to go with three steals, and Citron blocked three shots.
Maddy Westbeld tallied 11 points, accompanied by 5-of-7 shooting from the field, in just 17 minutes.
Anaya Peoples and Abby Prohaska chipped in 10 points apiece, with Peoples adding a game-high nine rebounds over just 18 minutes.
► While Riley Ott led all scorers in her return to the area, freshman sister Ryin Ott and Mastodon season leader Sylare Starks (14.7 points per game) did not play due to injuries.
A PFW spokesperson said he could not share further details, but Starks and Ryin Ott (10.3 ppg) had played in each of the team’s other games this season.
Riley Ott’s 21 points were one short of her career high. She jacked up 28 shots, making nine, including a trio of 3-pointers.
The Irish get a week between games, hosting Pittsburgh in an Atlantic Coast Conference matchup at 2 p.m. next Sunday. ND’s 1-0 in the ACC with its win four weeks ago at Syracuse.