ND Women’s Basketball: Gaelstrom
Joe Meixell | Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Notre Dame was forced to take on the Iona Gaels without its leader at the Joyce Center Monday night.
Irish head coach Muffet McGraw had to stay at home because of an illness, but associate head coach Coquese Washington guided Notre Dame to a 74-55 win over the Gaels.
Senior point guard Megan Duffy led the Irish with 21 points and out three assists. The Irish captain did not commit a single turnover in the game.
Freshman guard Lindsay Schrader continued to light up the scoreboard early in her Irish career, adding 14 points in 22 minutes. Schrader, who averages 10 points per game, is the team’s second leading scorer behind Duffy.
Duffy led the Irish charge to pull away from the Gaels early in the second half. Iona scored the first four points of the half to cut the Notre Dame lead to 36-32, but Notre Dame responded with a 16-4 run keyed by pressure defense and Duffy’s outside shooting. With 14:34 left in the game, Duffy connected on her second straight three-point shot to stretch Notre Dame’s advantage to 52-36 and put the game out of reach.
In the first half, Notre Dame relied on the inside play of center Melissa D’Amico and forward Courtney LaVere. The pair each recorded eight points in the first half. D’Amico pulled down eight rebounds in the game, while LaVere added five.
But despite the strong interior play early on, Iona hung with the more talented Irish in the first half. Washington attributed her team’s first half struggles to McGraw’s absence.
“It’s tough when you play without your head coach,” Washington said. “I think in the first half, we were all a little nervous. We didn’t really find out until just before the game that coach McGraw wasn’t going to be there. I think it took us the first half to kind of get used to the way it was going to be tonight.”
McGraw has stressed all season the need to improve team rebounding. The Irish edged the Gaels 42-35 on the boards, but D’Amico said the margin should have been even greater.
“Rebounding has been an issue all year,” the center said. “It’s something we work on in practice a lot. I think sometimes [when] we box out, we just don’t go after it. And that’s something we really have to improve on, especially against the better teams.”
Iona point guard Toni Horvath had a productive outing, leading the Gaels in scoring with 14 points and connecting on 4-of-6 three-point attempts. Iona’s 6-foot-5 forward Martina Weber pitched in with 11 points and nine rebounds.
The Irish struggled with free throws Tuesday night, shooting just 62 percent from the charity stripe. Washington said she does not think the problem will continue.
“It’s not really a concern of ours,” Washington said of the team’s free throw shooting. “We’re pretty good in practice, so sometimes it’s just when the lights go on a little nerves. And that’s just something that I think, as the season goes on, we’ll get used to that and we’ll knock them down.
“I’m totally confident in our players. They can go to the line and make free throws.”
Washington said she was extremely nervous when informed she would have to fill in for McGraw. But the associate head coach eventually was calmed, she said, by her confidence in the players.
“When you have players like Megan Duffy, it’s easy to be relaxed and confident because I know no matter what, they are going to give us the best effort that they have,” Washington said.
No update on McGraw’s condition or timetable for return was available following the game.
u Before the game Tuesday night, Duffy was presented with a plaque commemorating her accomplishments with the USA World University Games Team. Duffy, elected a captain of the team before the tournament, led the United States to an undefeated record and a gold medal victory in Izmir, Turkey. She started all seven games at point guard, averaging 6.1 points per game.