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ND Women’s Basketball

McGraw looks to see team improve against Toledo

| Wednesday, November 18, 2015

With its 85-54 win over Bucknell this past Sunday, No. 3 Notre Dame started its 21st straight season with a victory. It’s also been more than a decade since the Irish have dropped their second game of the season.

But that doesn’t mean Irish head coach Muffet McGraw doesn’t see plenty of places to improve for Wednesday’s home matchup against Toledo.

“Hopefully we will show tremendous improvement after this game,” McGraw said following the win. “I think we learned a lot. Offensively, we struggled at times. Defensively, we had a lot of breakdowns. We have a lot of work to do. We are not where we need to be right now.”

The Bison outrebounded the Irish (1-0), 44-33, on Sunday and picked up 14 second-chance points off 17 offensive boards.

Notre Dame’s 85 points were its fewest in a home-opener since 2011, while the 54 points allowed were the most over that time.

Of particular concern to McGraw was the inconsistency of her older players.

“The areas of concern I have are many. They are in pretty much every area of the game,” McGraw said. “We have to figure out what we are going to get from a certain player every single night. Consistency is something that you expect freshmen to be pretty up and down with, but the rest of the team you expect to be on a certain level and we are not there yet.”

Junior guard Lindsay Allen, who has averaged nearly 30 minutes per game over her Notre Dame career, played just 20 this past Sunday, due to two fouls in the first quarter and two more in the third. She scored just four points.

“It’s a concern not to have Lindsay on the floor, and I think you can see that. … We struggle without her on the floor in every way,” McGraw said.

Freshman guards Marina Mabrey and Arike Ogunbowale stepped in for Allen and combined to pour in 25 points to go with eight rebounds. Mabrey was particularly effective, shooting 6-for-10 from the field and adding a 3-pointer off an assist from sophomore forward Brianna Turner. She finished the game with 16 points.

Sophomore forward Brianna Turner guards the lane Notre Dame’s 77-68 victory over Baylor in the 2015 NCAA tournament. Turner scored 21 points in the Irish 85-54 win over Bucknell on Sunday.Observer File Photo

Sophomore forward Brianna Turner guards the lane Notre Dame’s 77-68 victory over Baylor in the 2015 NCAA tournament. Turner scored 21 points in the Irish 85-54 win over Bucknell on Sunday.

“I need to work on my rotations and being more aware of where I am, where the best players are and where I need to be,” Mabrey said. “Also, I need to make smarter passes on offense.”

Toledo’s freshmen, on the other hand, barely figured into its regular season opener, a 62-59 home loss to Arizona. None of the three rookies scored any points or played more than 11 minutes.

Instead, the Rockets (0-1) relied on the efforts of senior guard Brenae Harris, junior center Sophie Reecher and sophomore guard Jada Woody, who combined to score 34 points.

With the graduation of guard Inma Zanoguera, the Rockets lost last season’s leading scorer and rebounder. However, Harris, Reecher and Woody are part of the eight other highest scorers who return this season.

Against the Wildcats, Toledo grabbed 32 rebounds, 12 of them offensive, but in the post against the Irish, the Rockets will be at a disadvantage in size. Notre Dame features two starters — Turner and sophomore forward Kathryn Westbeld — who stand 6-foot-2 or taller, while Toledo has only one player in its rotation that tall.

The Irish will be without its leader in the frontcourt, junior forward Taya Reimer, who missed Sunday’s game with an Achilles injury and is not expected to return against Toledo.

Without Reimer, no Notre Dame player recorded more than six rebounds against Bucknell, which McGraw said needs to change in the coming games.

“We have some better rebounders than we showed today,” McGraw said Sunday.

Limiting offensive boards and the extra opportunities that come with them is also an area that needs to be addressed, Turner said.

“We need to know where we need to be,” Turner said Sunday. “It would help to communicate better. It’s always loud in here because we have really great fans, so we need to be loud and communicate a lot.”

Notre Dame faces Toledo on Wednesday night at Purcell Pavilion in its second game of the regular season. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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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