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ND Women’s Basketball

Turnovers plague Notre Dame

| Wednesday, April 8, 2015

From start to finish, the first half of Notre Dame’s national championship loss to Connecticut on Tuesday night was filled with turnovers.

Just over 40 seconds in, Huskies freshman guard Kia Nurse stole the ball from Irish sophomore guard Lindsay Allen.

Nearly 19 minutes later, junior guard Moriah Jefferson picked junior guard Hannah Huffman’s pocket.

Irish junior guard Jewell Loyd pursues a loose ball during Tuesday's 63-53 loss to Connecticut in the NCAA championship game.Kevin Song | The Observer

Irish junior guard Jewell Loyd pursues a loose ball during Tuesday’s 63-53 loss to Connecticut in the NCAA championship game.

In between, the Irish (36-3) surrendered the ball 11 other times, leading to 10 points for Connecticut (38-1). Along the way, they lost their only two leads of the game and fell into an eight-point hole from which they would never escape.

“In the first half, we kind of shot ourselves in the foot in terms of just taking care of the ball,” Allen said. “We had a lot of unforced turnovers. … and that’s part of being a young team. We just need to value the ball more.”

Almost every Irish player fell victim to rash of turnovers, with only junior guard Jewell Loyd maintaining a clean sheet. Allen, who was top 30 in the nation entering the game in assist-to-turnover ratio, gave up the ball four times and added just one assist.

Part of the issue, junior guard Michaela Mabrey said, was due to nerves of less experienced players.

“We’re a young team,” Mabrey said. “ … I think it shows that people are nervous. This is the biggest game of their lives. But it comes with experience.”

Notre Dame’s freshmen who saw the court in the first half agreed.

“This is definitely the biggest game I’ve played in,” freshman forward Brianna Turner said. “I just didn’t play the first half aggressive and didn’t play my game.”

“I think it just comes along with being in the national championship game and being a freshman,” freshman forward Kathryn Westbeld said.

Westbeld and Turner had three combined turnovers on the night in 23 total minutes, while failing to score a single point.

Loyd said the turnover problem resulted from early excitement causing the Irish to abandon their usual style of play.

“Everyone was overthinking a little bit,” Loyd said. “We had open shots, and everyone wanted to dribble in and try and attack the post players a little bit and making decisions we haven’t seen all year. I don’t know, maybe we were a little rattled, trying to do too much.”

Once that happened, Notre Dame had trouble getting back on track and matching the Huskies.

“We just had some mental lapses on offense … ” sophomore forward Taya Reimer said. “It was hard for us to get into a rhythm.”

And after those turnovers occurred, Notre Dame failed to get back on defense and could not stop the Huskies from scoring twice as many fast break points as the Irish did (6-3).

“They made shots in transition, which we can’t let happen,” senior guard Madison Cable said. “And they got a lot of points off our turnovers, which also hurt us.”

Connecticut shot 38 percent from the field and 23 percent from 3-point territory in the first 20 minutes of the game, but had four more attempts from the field and 10 more from long range.

Irish head coach Muffet McGraw said she was pleased with her team’s halfcourt defense throughout the first stanza but emphasized at the midway break that if Notre Dame was to come back, it needed to take care of the ball.

“If we could stop turning the ball over, we’d have an opportunity to close that gap,” McGraw said. “Our problem was in transition and second-chance points.”

While the Irish did take better care of the ball in the second half — just four turnovers — Notre Dame could not come back as Connecticut began to heat up from the field. Meanwhile, the Irish could not force any turnovers of their own and continued to struggle in transition defense.

“Transitions and turnovers, that’s where all their points came from,” Mabrey said.

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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