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ND Women’s Basketball

Turner struggles in first half before bouncing back

| Wednesday, April 8, 2015

It’s not often Brianna Turner matches up against a frontcourt she can’t handle.

But anyone listening to the pregame chatter surrounding the NCAA championship Tuesday night knew Turner was facing a challenge unlike anything she had faced in her freshman season. Player of the Year junior forward Breanna Stewart, All-American senior forward Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and redshirt sophomore forward Morgan Tuck all had more experience than Turner, and all averaged more points per game.

Freshman forward Brianna Turner plays defense during the 63-53 loss to Connecticut on Tuesday night in Tampa.Kevin Song | The Observer

Freshman forward Brianna Turner plays defense during the 63-53 loss to Connecticut on Tuesday night in Tampa.

But after the Irish matched up well against South Carolina in the national semifinal, Turner said she felt confident confronting one of the NCAA’s top frontcourts in the title game.

“Of course there was a lot of talk before the game about South Carolina’s front four, and how dominant they are, and how we’d probably struggle so we wanted to go out and prove we had a good front four as well,” Turner said Monday.

After fouling out against South Carolina in the semifinals, Turner did not record any personal fouls Tuesday night, but for the first 20 minutes, she was conspicuously absent from the rest of the stat sheet as well. Despite playing 18 minutes, she attempted only one field goal and missed it, in addition to collecting three rebounds compared to two turnovers. Meanwhile, Stewart and Mosqueda-Lewis grabbed five offensive rebounds over her and combined for nearly half of the Huskies’ 31 first-half points with 14 between the two players.

However, it was not Turner’s fault she did not make an impact, Irish head coach Muffet McGraw said.

“We didn’t look for her enough,” McGraw said. “I thought we needed to get her the ball more, talked about it at halftime, trying to get her in the pick-and-roll, going high/low. … I think our point guards had a little trouble finding her.”

Despite standing 6-foot-4, the tallest Irish player on the court, Turner did not figure into Notre Dame’s early offensive attack, sophomore guard Lindsay Allen said.

“In the first half, we weren’t really looking for her,” Allen said. “I think she was open a few times in the first half [but] we couldn’t get the ball to her, kept turning it over trying to get it to her.”

Yet Turner said she blamed herself for the results of the first half.

“I think I wasn’t aggressive enough. I was really timid in the first half,” Turner said.

After halftime, though, Turner almost single-handedly kept the Irish alive, going 7-for-8 from the field and scoring 14 points, including a midrange jumper as the shot clock expired to put Notre Dame within six with six minutes, 30 seconds left in the game.

“I don’t know, just being in the locker room at halftime, reflecting on my first half, I wasn’t happy with my performance,” Truner said. “So I just came out in the second half determined to rebound and get the shots I usually get.”

Turner was equally dominant when it came to rebounds. She grabbed seven boards, four of them offensive, and pushed the Irish to out-rebound Connecticut, who boasts the second-best rebounding margin in the country, 45-35.

“She’s a great player. She’s amazing,” sophomore forward Taya Reimer said. “I’ve kind of tried to be a mentor to her, but I look up to her. She does some amazing things on the court, for her to be a freshman and keep fighting the way she did, she just knew she could do great things in such a huge game. And again, she’s just a freshman.”

In the end, however, Turner’s efforts were not enough to overcome Mosqueda-Lewis’s 3-point shooting and Stewart’s dominance down low. Both were named to the all-tournament team, with Stewart collecting her third Most Outstanding Player award. They put up a combined 23 points and 20 rebounds, along with all six of Connecticut’s blocks.

“They have great bigs on their team,” Reimer said. “We knew that they had shot-blockers on their team, and, I mean, they’re very good inside. … We really couldn’t find the rhythm offensively.”

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About Greg Hadley

Greg Hadley is a senior from Rockville, Maryland, majoring in political science with a minor in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. He served as The Observer's Editor-in-Chief for the 2015-2016 term and currently covers Notre Dame baseball and women's basketball.

Contact Greg