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ND Women’s Basketball

Notre Dame uses defense to smother Rockets

| Thursday, November 19, 2015

No. 3 Notre Dame delivered a dominant defensive performance and overcame early shooting trouble to comfortably defeat Toledo, 74-39, on Wednesday night at Purcell Pavilion.

The Irish (2-0) held the Rockets (0-2) to just 23.7 percent shooting, including a run of over 12 minutes without a field goal, to mark the lowest point total the Irish have conceded since Jan. 24 at Clemson last season. Irish head coach Muffet McGraw said she was impressed by the ferocity of the defense.

“I was really happy with the defense today,” McGraw said. “There was so much improvement in just a couple days. There was a renewed energy and intensity. I thought our zone looked really good. We seemed to communicate a little bit better. Overall, I was very pleased. I thought the rebounding was better.

“Generally, everything looked better.”

Sophomore forward Kathryn Westbeld looks for a shot during Notre Dame’s 74-39 victory over Toledo on Wednesday night. Kathryne Robinson | The Observer

Sophomore forward Kathryn Westbeld looks for a shot during Notre Dame’s 74-39 victory over Toledo on Wednesday night.

It was a slow start for Notre Dame offensively, as the Irish shot 5-of-18 in the first quarter. The Rockets faced similar offensive woes early on, though, allowing the Irish to end the first period with a 14-11 lead.

Both sides continued to struggle offensively for most of the second quarter, with the Irish ahead by a score of 19-15 with only four minutes left in the first half. However, from there Notre Dame quickly pulled away, closing the half on a 10-2 run to lead 29-17 at halftime. McGraw said she wasn’t concerned by the team’s early offensive struggles going into the half.

“I was really happy at halftime,” McGraw said “They only had 17 points, and that was just great defense. That’s all we can control — we can’t control the ball going into the basket. I thought that the shots we were getting were good. Maybe we took a couple too many [3-pointers].

“I thought we could’ve gone inside more. We never got to the foul line, but there were a couple of quarters where nobody got to the foul line. I thought it was a really well-officiated game, where we could play our game. I thought we could’ve tried a little harder to get some contact by driving the ball.”

Inside the first minute of the third quarter, sophomore forward Brianna Turner picked up her third foul and the Rockets converted the resulting free throws to close the game to 29-19.

However, Notre Dame quickly took complete control of the game with a 17-0 run, scoring the first 11 points of the run without Turner. Toledo finally responded with a baseline jumper from Ana Capotosto with just over two minutes left in the third period, the first field goal for the Rockets since the fifth minute of the second quarter. Shooting for the Irish improved markedly in the quarter, with the team making 8-of-12 field goals. Graduate student guard Madison Cable, who scored 11 points on the day, said the defensive performance played a large part in the offensive improvement.

“We tried to play good defense which leads to offense. Some of our shots weren’t going in, so we tried to pick it up on defense to create points and I think that happened,” Cable said.

McGraw said she was encouraged by the offensive improvement and expects the team to continue to improve as the season goes on.

“Offensively, we did some really good things in the second half,” McGraw said. “I think we are going to continue to get better offensively as we work on our combinations and people in the game. I thought [junior guard] Lindsay [Allen] looked superb — it was great to have her on the floor for all that time. Having [junior forward] Taya [Reimer] back was a huge boost for all of us. It was really important to get her back in the lineup. So, really happy with everybody today.”

Junior guard Lindsay Allen sizes up a defender during the 74-39 Irish victory over Toledo at Purcell  Pavilion on Wednesday night. Allen had 10 points and nine assists in the win.  Kathryne Robinson | The Observer

Junior guard Lindsay Allen sizes up a defender during the 74-39 Irish victory over Toledo at Purcell
Pavilion on Wednesday night. Allen had 10 points and nine assists in the win.

The Irish continued to pull away behind an improved offensive performance in the fourth quarter, with a 14-2 run to start the period, and cruised to the victory in the end as the defense continued to stifle the Rockets. McGraw said her team’s defensive performance was largely due to a switch to a 1-2-2 zone scheme.

“We hadn’t shown it before and didn’t play much of it last year,” McGraw said. “They were probably expecting a little bit more man-to-man. I thought the way we played the zone was smart. We communicated well and helped each other well. They missed some shots. They had some open shots that they missed and they were pressing a little bit after missing a few shots. We could have turned the game around even quicker if we had made some shots offensively.”

The Irish will face their first road game of the season Saturday when they travel to South Dakota State. The game tips off at 3 p.m.

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About Daniel O'Boyle

Daniel O'Boyle is a senior sports writer living in Alumni Hall, majoring in Political Science. He is currently on the Notre Dame Women's Basketball, Men's Tennis and Women's Soccer beats. Originally from Belfast, Northern Ireland, Daniel spends most of his free time attempting to keep up with second-flight English soccer and his beloved Reading FC. He believes Lonzo Ball is the greatest basketball player of all time.

Contact Daniel