ND Women’s Basketball: Irish shoot down Golden Eagles at JACC
Joe Meixell | Thursday, February 14, 2008
All the progress Notre Dame had made defensively against Pittsburgh on Sunday looked lost early Wednesday night against Marquette.
The Irish were down by six at the second TV timeout and appeared lost. But things finally clicked, and the Irish didn’t look back.
A defensive switch led to a 21-1 Notre Dame run, and the Irish stormed past the Golden Eagles 99-76 at the Joyce Center.
Notre Dame used a box-and-one defense to shut down Golden Eagles guard Krystal Ellis and a good transition offense to pull away from Marquette.
Irish coach Muffet McGraw said she made the defensive change after Ellis had made three early 3-pointers against her squad.
“[Ellis] was the one person we were concerned about guarding. We didn’t get close enough to her,” McGraw said. “We went to the box-and-one and, I thought, pretty effectively shut her down.”
Ellis finished the game with 18 points on 7-of-15 shooting.
The modified zone defense caused takeaways, which led to easy buckets on the other end. Notre Dame finished with 33 points on 24 turnovers.
“We were really good on transition tonight,” McGraw said. “We moved the ball, we threw it ahead, we got great shots. I thought all-in-all the shot selection and the break was great.”
Marquette coach Terri Mitchell said she did not understand why the box-and-one was so effective against her team; she said Marquette had played against it much of the season.
“Every Big East game has been a box-and-one. We see it every game,” she said. “The bottom line is, if you screen and run the plays, the slips will be there and when Krystal has two defenders, someone’s open so someone else has to score.”
The one Golden Eagles player able to take advantage of Notre Dame’s defensive focus on Ellis was guard Courtney Weibel. The 5-foot-8 freshman came into the game averaging only 1.4 points per contest, but went 4-for-4 from beyond the arc and finished with 14 points.
“Courtney is getting minutes in the latter part of this season because she has an excellent shot,” Mitchell said.
The Irish outscored Marquette in the paint 52-24, something McGraw said was more indicative of the guards’ ability to drive the lane for layups than a particularly strong post performance.
“It’s a little deceiving in the paint because we were getting points from a lot of the guards,” she said.
In part because of its abundance of close shots, Notre Dame finished with a season-high 64.3 field-goal percentage. Coming into the game, the Golden Eagles had not allowed an opponent to shoot better than 49 percent all season.
“We’re not going to win any ball games when we let a team shoot 64 percent,” Mitchell said.
Guards Tulyah Gaines (with a season-high 22 points) Charel Allen (13) and Lindsey Schrader (17) scored in double figures. But another three players – center Erica Williamson and guards Ashley Barlow and Brittany Mallory – each finished with nine points, and every player that saw minutes except seldom-used guard Amanda Tsipis scored at least six.
One major adjustment that McGraw said she was glad her team made was that it outrebounded Marquette 36-26. Pittsburgh dominated the Irish on the boards 56-42 in Notre Dame’s 81-66 win on Sunday.
“We really needed to outrebound them after getting crushed [in that area] by Pitt,” McGraw said. “That was something we talked about, how everybody was going to step up and do a little bit more.”
Notre Dame was stuck on 99 points for the last 3:20, but got the ball with 16 seconds remaining after a Marquette turnover. McGraw had guard Melissa Lechlitner use up the remaining time instead of trying for 100 points. McGraw said she did not want to run up the score on Mitchell, her close friend.
“There was no way I wanted to get a hundred on them,” she said. “I thought it would be in poor taste.”
Starting Saturday, Notre Dame begins a three-game road trip against at least two ranked opponents. The Irish start off with No. 21 Syracuse, followed by No. 5 Rutgers on Tuesday. They finish the road trip in Chicago against DePaul, who is not currently ranked but was earlier in the season.
u Notre Dame was selected as one of eight host site for the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament in 2009 and 2010.
The NCAA announced last season that the Joyce Center would house the first two rounds of the 2010 Tournament. After the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball committee voted to increase the number of host sites from four to eight in 2009 (reversing a decision made in 2005), it chose the Irish to host next year’s Tournament as well.
“Our women’s basketball team has enjoyed tremendous success in the NCAA Tournament over the years,” Athletic Director Kevin White said. “We believe this selection is a fitting and just reward for the hard work and dedication Muffet [McGraw], her players and her staff have put in to make Notre Dame an elite national power in women’s college basketball.”