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ND Women’s Basketball

ND to face first ranked opponent at Michigan State

| Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Even a 105-point performance isn’t perfect.

After putting up 105 points in a season-opening win against Massachusetts-Lowell, the No. 3 Irish gear up for a matchup tonight against No. 14 Michigan State in East Lansing, Michigan. They’ll have to make improvements to face their first ranked opponent of the season, Irish coach Muffet McGraw said.

“I think defensively we’ve got a lot of work to do before we’re ready for Michigan State,” McGraw said after last Friday’s game against Massachusetts-Lowell (0-1). “They’re a great team. They’ve got some veteran players that are really, really talented, so we’ve got to get a lot better before Wednesday.”

Although the Irish (1-0) were aggressive on offense, they need to do a better job staying aggressive on defense, junior guard Jewell Loyd said after the game.

“We need to do better on defense, and I think if we get more aggressive on defense [it] will motivate our offense, so we’ve always got to approach on defense and learn defensive spots, but that’s why we go back, and we practice, and we get better and do better the next game,” Loyd said.

Notre Dame freshman forward Brianna Turner dribbles up the court during the 105-51 win over Massachusetts-Lowell on Nov. 14. Jodi Lo

Notre Dame freshman forward Brianna Turner dribbles up the court during the 105-51 win over Massachusetts-Lowell on Nov. 14.

Three of the top four scorers for the Spartans (1-0) return from last season: redshirt sophomore forward Aerial Powers, sophomore guard Tori Jankoska and senior forward Becca Mills.

Powers led Michigan State with 13.4 points per game, 8.2 rebounds per game and 59 total steals last season. Jankoska averaged 12.4 points per game, and Mills posted 10.0 per game.

The Spartans won their season opener against Eastern Michigan, 69-61, despite shooting 33.3 percent from the field. Jankoska and Powers led Michigan State with 20 points apiece as the only double-digit scorers for the Spartans.

In the Irish opener, freshman forward Brianna Turner sparked the Irish with 29 points, many off the fast break. It’s a style McGraw said she hopes to see more of this season with the team’s talented forwards, including starters Turner and sophomore Taya Reimer.

“I think our post-game, we feel like rebounding’s something that we’re going to do really well,” McGraw said. “Our posts are really good running the floor. Transition offense is something that we really want to do, and I thought we did both of those really well [against Massachusetts-Lowell]. I think we share the ball really well. We’re pretty unselfish.”

The Irish out-rebounded Massachusetts-Lowell by more than double, 54-23. Turner and Reimer tied for the team lead with nine, and every player who saw game action pulled down at least two.

Behind the 105 points and 54-point margin of victory in that game, however, were 18 turnovers. McGraw chalked the miscues up to nerves, as many of the turnovers were committed by freshmen playing in their debuts.

“It was fast-paced,” Turner said afterwards. “I mean, it’s college; it’s a lot different from what I played in high school, but we’ve done a lot of conditioning lately, so I felt like it was good. I was able to keep up.”

McGraw said she expects the passing game to improve, especially because the errors didn’t result from poor decision-making.

“I thought that we just threw some really bad passes,” McGraw said. “I thought the decisions were pretty good most of the time, but the passing was not as crisp as we expect it to be.”

Last year, Notre Dame also played Michigan State in its second game. The then-No. 6 Irish defeated the then-No. 19 Spartans, 81-62, at Purcell Pavilion.

Loyd led Notre Dame with 22 points and added nine rebounds while Reimer tallied 19 points and a team-high 13 rebounds. For Michigan State, Mills scored a team-high 15 points followed by Jankoska with 14.

The Irish tip off against the Spartans at 7 p.m. tonight at Breslin Center in East Lansing, Michigan.

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