ND Women’s Basketball
ND travels to No. 6 Maryland
Mary Green | Sunday, January 26, 2014
No. 2 Notre Dame puts its perfect record on the line once again tonight when it faces off with No. 6 Maryland in a top-10 battle at the Comcast Center in College Park, Md.Both the Irish (18-0, 5-0 ACC) and the Terrapins (16-2, 4-1 ACC) come in to the matchup with high-powered offenses, as Notre Dame’s 88.1 points-per-game average ranks fourth in the nation, while Maryland’s 84.8 comes in at seventh.
Notre Dame, however, has struggled recently with slow starts, needing to overcome early deficits against No. 11 Tennessee and Miami before eventually pulling away in its last two games.
Irish head coach Muffet McGraw said after the 79-52 win over the Hurricanes on Thursday that her experienced players are key to helping the squad climb back to take the lead.
“We’ve been effective scoring off the tip,” she said. “You could just tell after that first possession when we couldn’t score, I think everyone got a little tight, and that’s when we really need our veterans to step up and relax and make shots.”
Now in the heart of their conference schedule, the Irish may face stronger challenges in coming back from a deficit against opponents from the ACC, which claims four top-10 teams.
“We’re going to be in some battles in this league,” McGraw said. “Everybody is good, so we’ve really got to be ready.”
Notre Dame will have to be ready for Maryland and senior forward Alyssa Thomas, the two-time reigning ACC Player of the Year. Thomas, who recently surpassed the 2,000-point milestone, averages a double-double with 18.3 points per game and 11.1 rebounds per game, leading her team in both categories.
The Terrapins enter the game off an 86-72 loss to Virginia despite Thomas’s 27 points and 10 rebounds.
Senior forward Natalie Achonwa said she thinks the Irish can be even better if they get out to quicker starts.
“You see glimpses,” she said. “The fact that we can [take over games] is really scary, but the part that would be great is if we could do it in the first half.”
Freshman guard Lindsay Allen may see an increased role in upcoming games after sophomore guard Jewell Loyd suffered a sprained right knee against Tennessee. Loyd is currently listed as day-to-day.
“The more she knows the offense and the more we get to know each other in terms of the whole team, you can see we all just kind of know where we’re supposed to be, and she knows what plays to call for certain people,” Achonwa said of Allen. “So I think just her awareness of the game and how smart and how high of an IQ she has as well as how well she knows the offense now, it’s all just piecing together, and she’s a great leader for us in terms of keeping us on pace.”
If Loyd does not suit up against the Terrapins, the Irish must figure out how to make up for her 16.9 points per game and 6.1 rebounds per game, along with her lockdown defense.
“I think her energy, you know, she’s an energy player, and I think she adds so much,” McGraw said of the sophomore guard. “She can get a big rebound, make a big stop. She can steal, get a basket. Obviously, we’re different without her, and we’re praying for a speedy recovery because we’d love to get her back in the lineup soon.”
With the possibility of playing without their leading scorer, the Irish take on the Terrapins tonight at 7 p.m. at the Comcast Center in College Park, Md.
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