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ND Women’s Basketball

McGraw wins 700th at Notre Dame

| Monday, November 16, 2015

No. 3 Notre Dame opened this season the same way it has done in the past 20 years: with a win. This time, it came against Bucknell on Sunday at Purcell Pavilion, 85-54.

While the victory turned the 20-year streak into a 21-year one, it also marked a bigger milestone: the 700th victory as Notre Dame’s head coach for Muffet McGraw.

Despite the success she has earned in her 29 years patrolling the Irish sidelines, McGraw said it was never a landmark she pictured herself reaching as a coach.

“No, I wasn’t much of a goal-setter,” McGraw said. “Really, I think my first and only goal here was to pack the Joyce — that was one thing, wanted to see a big crowd here, and we were able to do that and continue to do that. Every time that I come out to the arena before the game and see the people that are supporting myself, I just want to pinch myself.”

Irish head coach Muffet McGraw patrols the sideline during Notre Dame’s 63-53 loss to Connecticut at Amalie Arena in Tampa on April 7. McGraw is now 700-221 in her career as head coach of the Irish.Alex Carson | The Observer

Irish head coach Muffet McGraw patrols the sideline during Notre Dame’s 63-53 loss to Connecticut at Amalie Arena in Tampa on April 7. McGraw is now 700-221 in her career as head coach of the Irish.

Though the win did cap the achievement for McGraw, she was not satisfied with her team’s performance in the opener.

The Irish (1-0) were outrebounded 44-33 and scored just 11 second-chance points off their 11 offensive boards. They also struggled to pull away from the Bison (1-1), leading by just seven points at the end of the first quarter and 15 at halftime.

“I think we learned a lot,” McGraw said. “Offensively, we struggled at times, but defensively, we have a lot — just a lot of breakdowns that we need to fix, so we’ve got a lot of work to do. We are not where we need to be right now.”

Sophomore forward Kathryn Westbeld, who started for Notre Dame in place of injured junior forward Taya Reimer (Achilles), led the Irish on the boards with six rebounds, an area of Notre Dame’s game McGraw said Bucknell exposed Sunday.

“They out-toughed us and outworked us and outrebounded us by [11], which is just something we need to work on,” she said. “We have some better rebounders than we showed today, and we’ll hopefully show a tremendous improvement after this game.”

Sophomore forward Brianna Turner, who recorded 10 double-doubles last year, pulled down just four rebounds, but she paced all scorers with 21 points in 24 minutes on the floor.

Turner started the game 3-for-7 from the floor in the first half but found her stride in the second, hitting six of her seven shot attempts in the final 20 minutes. Midway through the fourth quarter, Turner put together a four-minute streak that included three layups, two free throws, two blocks and a steal before she was substituted out with the Irish up 18 and the win all but final.

“We were trying to go inside for most of the game and weren’t as effective in the first half,” McGraw said. “I thought we came out in the second half and really looked to go inside. I thought [Turner] did a much better job in the second half.”

Joining Turner in double-figure scoring were graduate student guard Madison Cable and freshman guard Marina Mabrey, who registered 20 and 16 points, respectively. Cable made seven of her nine shots, including three of her four from behind the arc, while Mabrey connected on six of her 10.

“Marina gave us a huge lift off the bench,” McGraw said. “I think that was just opportunity. I think she saw the opportunity and took advantage of it.”

That opportunity came at the cost of one of Notre Dame’s steadiest players, however. Junior guard Lindsay Allen picked up two early fouls and had collected four total by the end of the third quarter, which kept her on the bench for 20 minutes. The Irish point guard averaged 31.1 minutes on the floor last season, her first as a starter.

“Having her on the floor for 40 minutes is a must,” McGraw said. “She has really got to stay out of foul trouble. That was some poor decisions, I thought, on her part. She could’ve let a couple of those go, right off the bat. I think that was more of a freshman mistake that she’ll probably never make again, so I think she learned a lot from that.

“We have great depth at every other position, but that is the one player we need on the floor.”

The Irish return to the court to take on Toledo at Purcell Pavilion on Wednesday at 7 p.m.

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