ND Women’s Basketball
Allen, Turner lead team into new season
Daniel O'Boyle | Friday, November 13, 2015
Notre Dame opens the 2015-16 regular season at home against Bucknell in what could be an opportunity to set the tone for another successful season.
The Bison posted an 18-12 record last year, including a 10-8 mark in the Patriot League, and will be in action against Cleveland State on Friday before they meet the Irish on Sunday. Bucknell returns four of its five starters from last year, including junior forward Claire DeBoer, who averaged 11.3 points and 7.6 rebounds per game last season.
For Notre Dame, the game will be the first competitive matchup since losing 63-53 to Connecticut in the NCAA National Championship in April. The Irish return four of five starters from last year, including 2015 ACC Freshman of the Year Brianna Turner and ACC assist-leader Lindsay Allen. Irish head coach Muffet McGraw said she looks forward to finally being able to begin the season again.
“It’s so much fun,” McGraw said at Notre Dame’s media day in October. “Every year is a brand new team. We have different issues, so many people who can score in different ways. We’ve got a great post game, we’ve got terrific freshmen. Trying to piece it together is really the most difficult thing for me. It’s like a giant puzzle.”
Allen said she thinks the team is capable of great things.
“I think our potential is limitless,” Allen said. “We’re young, we’re excited, we’re getting more experience on the perimeter and especially in the post, with [Turner] getting a year older and [junior forward] Taya [Reimer] getting a year older and [sophomore forward] Kathryn [Westbeld] getting a year older.”
The Irish will have to find a way to replace the production of 2015 All-American Jewell Loyd, who left Notre Dame at the end of last season for the WNBA, but Allen said the team can make up for the loss through collective effort.
“I think we’re going to be a little more balanced,” Allen said. “The defense won’t be able to clue in on one player like they did for Jewell. I think with the offense we have right now, and what the coaches will come up with, the scoring should be spread out more.”
Turner looks set to be a key contributor for the Irish again this year, after a successful freshman outing. This year, Turner said she has improved physically and expects it to show when the regular season begins.
“I’m definitely just working on playing hard the whole game,” Turner said. “Last year, I would get tired and kind of take plays off, so this year I just hope to play hard the whole game and take less plays off.
“I’m focusing on posting up stronger. I feel like I’m stronger this year so definitely maintaining my position on the block.”
The Irish had a chance to tune up for the regular season Saturday when they defeated Wayne State, 101-52, at Purcell Pavilion. Irish head coach Muffet McGraw said the game helped her understand what her team still needs to work on.
“We showed some defensive areas that we can work out, we showed some places that we were turning the ball over way too much, we showed how we could tighten things up offensively,” McGraw said after the victory. “The press I think had some good moments, that’s as tight as we’ve looked with that press for a while, so I was happy with that, more so in the second half.”
The offense had some close range misses against Wayne State, but McGraw said that doesn’t concern her and is not something she expects to cause any trouble on Sunday.
“I’m not too worried about misses,” McGraw said. “We were working today on the execution. We took great shots. That’s what you can control. Whether the ball goes in or out of the basket, we really don’t have total control over that. [Sophomore forward Brianna Turner] led the nation in field goal percentage last year — we’re going to make those shots.”
Turner said the performance against Wayne State showed a lot of potential for the Irish which she hopes to see carried into into the regular season.
“We did well,” Turner said. “Of course we missed a few easy buckets, but overall we did a good job. Even the guards were driving a lot, and they got to the foul line. It was really a collective effort inside.”
The game will also be the first opportunity for two Irish freshman guards — Arike Ogunbowale and Marina Mabrey — to prove themselves in the regular season. A third freshman guard, Ali Patberg, was expected to contribute early for Notre Dame but will miss the entire 2015-16 season with a torn ACL. However, junior forward Kristina Nelson is set to play her first competitive game for the Irish in over a year after missing all of last season with a shoulder injury while Reimer, who missed Notre Dame’s exhibition with Wayne State, may be fit to play again Sunday.
The Irish and Bison will tip Sunday at Purcell Pavilion at 1 p.m.