ND Women’s Basketball
Irish prepare for showdown with Hokies
Aaron Sant-Miller | Thursday, January 30, 2014
When No. 2 Notre Dame hosts Virginia Tech tonight, it also plays host to one of the most talented players in the ACC. Hokie senior forward Uju Ugoka is averaging 20.2 points per game and 10.3 rebounds per game, good for second and third in the ACC, respectively.
“She’s really, really talented and is going to be a challenge for us defensively,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “She’s quick, she’s strong and she’s one of the best scorers and rebounders in the conference. She’s just going to be a challenge to defend.”
Notre Dame (19-0, 6-0 ACC) entered the week in the top 10 in the NCAA in rebounding margin at plus-12. But the Irish struggled in the department in a 87-83 win over No. 8 Maryland on Monday night. Against the Terrapins (16-3, 4-2 ACC), the Irish gave up 17 second-chance points. Maryland senior forward Alyssa Thomas finished with 29 points and 12 rebounds.
“The reason [defending Ugoka] is going to be such a challenge is that we are coming off a game where we had trouble containing a strong post player,” McGraw said. “That was a weakness of our game Monday night, so we need to have a little bit more of a team attitude about our defending. I think we need to work a little bit harder and have a little bit more effort. That will help us with our rebounding and our boxing out.”
The Irish did have a strong individual performance of their own Monday night. Sophomore guard Jewell Lloyd finished with 31 points, while collecting seven rebounds and six assists.
“I think she needs to continue to be aggressive offensively,” McGraw said. “I was pleased to see her get to the foul line, which is something that she has really been working on a little bit more this year. She was really effective driving the ball a little bit more and she shot the ball really well. That let her mix it up a little bit more offensively, but going to the basket is one of the strengths of her game and I want to see more of that [tonight].”
Virginia Tech (10-9, 0-6) brings a balanced offense to Notre Dame, as the Hokies, like the Irish, have three players averaging double figures in scoring.
“They have some really good 3-point shooters on the perimeter,” McGraw said. “[The Hokies’] inside game is strong as well, which gives them versatility on offense. We have to be ready to defend all aspects of their game. They are a smart team that plays well defensively as well, so we have to be ready.”
Though the Irish entered this week third in the NCAA in scoring, Notre Dame’s defense lags behind the team’s high offensive standard. This season, the Irish are 40th in the NCAA in points per game allowed.
“Our focus is defensively; we have to get better defensively,” McGraw said. “We haven’t been as sharp as we can be and I think we have a long way to go. So I would say that defense and defensive rebounding are the two things we’re most heavily focusing on right now.”
The Irish will look to contain the Virginia Tech offense tonight at 7 p.m. in Purcell Pavilion, as the team seeks its 20th straight win to start the season.
Contact Aaron Sant-Miller at email@example.com