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ND Women’s Basketball: Physcial play earns win

Brian Hartnett | Monday, November 11, 2013

 

Earlier this season, Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw challenged her team to be meaner on the court. On Monday night, the No. 6 Irish showed they had no problem being physical, as they consistently won battles in the paint and on the glass to defeat No. 19 Michigan State, 81-62, at Purcell Pavilion.

Notre Dame (2-0) outrebounded Michigan State (0-1), 52-29, and held a 24-8 edge on the offensive glass for the game. Notre Dame’s rebounding edge allowed the Irish to score 50 points in the paint and 25 points on second-chance attempts.

“We knew they were going to be a really physical team, and they were bigger than the teams we played before, so we really focused on positioning and just being physical and trying to be mean,” Irish freshman forward Taya Reimer said. “That’s the only way you can muscle for those rebounds.”

In only her second collegiate game, Reimer put up her first double-double, as she finished with 19 points and 13 rebounds. Sophomore guard Jewell Loyd finished one rebound shy of a double-double, recording 22 points and nine boards.

“I was really pleased with our freshmen; I thought [freshman guard] Lindsay Allen and Taya played extremely well,” McGraw said. “Jewell, I thought, was player of the game. She made a lot of things happen for us offensively, got some rebounds and scored when she wanted to.”

Despite making only two of her 13 field-goal attempts in the first half, Irish senior guard Kayla McBride finished with 15 points, nine rebounds and five assists. Allen added seven points and five assists in her second start as point guard.

Playing its season opener, Michigan State got off to the early lead, jumping out to a 14-11 advantage with 14:07 to go in the first half. The Irish took a lead they would not relinquish just a little over a minute later, when Reimer made a turnaround layup to make it a 15-14 game.

Notre Dame finished the half on a 13-4 run to take a 36-24 lead into halftime. Notre Dame’s defense held Michigan State to only eight points in the final 10 minutes of the half.

“I think our zone [defense] flustered them a little bit,” McGraw said. “We were getting in some passing lanes and getting some deflections, and they were missing shots. They had some really good looks that they just missed … but I thought our zone was the difference in the first half.

The Irish started the second half strong, as they went on an early 10-2 run to open up a 52-31 lead.

The Spartans quickly responded with a 9-0 run to cut Notre Dame’s lead to 52-40. The Spartans went on a 7-0 run minutes later to make the score 58-47 with 8:39 left in the game.

“We had a couple of stretches where we missed some shots,” McGraw said. “Our shot selection maybe was a little questionable … and they went inside. We had a four-guard lineup at the time, and they were throwing it over us.”

Michigan State would not come any closer, though, as Notre Dame scored several late baskets to seal its eighth consecutive win against Big Ten competition and 28th victory over a ranked opponent since the start of the 2011-12 season.

Despite the rebounding advantage, McGraw said the Irish still have room to grow before they can meet her challenge.

“I don’t think we’re quite where we want to be yet,” she said. “I thought they played today a little bit differently, a little bit meaner.”

Irish senior forward Natalie Achonwa did not play, as she continues to recover from a knee surgery performed last month, but she may return to the court soon, McGraw said.

“We’re hoping in another week we can maybe get [Achonwa] individual workouts,” she said. “[She should] definitely [return] by Dec. 1.”

The Irish return to action when they meet Valparaiso on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Purcell Pavilion.

Contact Brian Hartnett at bhartnet@nd.edu.