ND Women’s Basketball
Turner leads Irish into exhibition
Renee Griffin | Friday, November 6, 2015
No. 3 Notre Dame will take the court in front of fans at Purcell Pavilion for the first time this season when Wayne State visits for an exhibition matchup Saturday.
Wayne State is a Division II program, and Irish head coach Muffet McGraw said the game will mainly be an opportunity to evaluate her own team following a second-place finish in the 2015 NCAA tournament and the early departure of star guard Jewell Loyd to the WNBA.
“We worry about us, [not Wayne State],” McGraw said. “We worry about execution, details, taking care of the little things, looking at the defense mostly.
“On offense, we’re looking at execution more than scoring. I don’t care what the score is, it’s all about ‘Did we run the play, did we get the screen, did we get the shot we wanted?’ That’s what we’re really trying to key on.”
The exhibition will also be a chance to take a look at Notre Dame’s guard rotation, which was already shaken up by the torn ACL of highly recruited freshman guard Ali Patberg. At the team’s media day last month, McGraw said Patberg’s presence might have allowed top junior guard Lindsay Allen to move away from the point position at times.
Now, the setup will be more like last season’s, with Allen usually bringing the ball up the court.
“[Senior guard] Michaela [Mabrey] will be the backup point guard,” McGraw said. “We’ll look at just having all the guards handle the ball more now, with [freshman guards] Marina [Mabrey] and Arike [Ogunbowale] handling the ball a little bit more. It’ll be pretty much like it was last year.”
The frontcourt will also be affected by injuries in Saturday’s exhibition, as junior captain and forward Taya Reimer is nursing an Achilles injury and will not play until the regular season begins Nov. 15.
However, the Irish will benefit from having sophomore forward and ACC Preseason Player of the Year Brianna Turner under the net. Sophomore forward Kathryn Westbeld will be filling in for Reimer alongside Turner.
McGraw also noted graduate student guard Madison Cable has been important in the Irish rebound game during practice.
“Maddie was the leading rebounder in a couple of our scrimmages, even more than Bri,” McGraw said. “She’s someone we can really count on to rebound. We need Arike to rebound more, and Kathryn and Bri, of course. Really, it’s everybody’s job.”
Junior forward Kristina Nelson, who is known as “Koko” and was sidelined all of last year as she recovered from shoulder surgery, should also be able to help create offense for Notre Dame as the season progresses, McGraw said.
“Koko’s going be able to score,” McGraw said. “She’s a really good passer; she can hit the free throws and the jumper. I really like what she’s doing on offense. You still see sometimes when she’s a little hesitant to go up for a shot with her left [because of her injury].”
Still, Turner, who finished her freshman season with the league’s best field-goal percentage and an average of 13.8 points per game, remains the most formidable force in the Irish frontcourt.
Yet McGraw said she expects Turner to exceed even last season’s production, though the progress has not fully materialized in practice.
“[Turner] does some things effortlessly, and we’re looking for her to do more,” she said. “Even when she scores, she needs to do more. She’ll be hearing that a lot this year. I want her to average a double-double, but I’m not sure that 10 and 10 is enough.”
While the score of Saturday’s game doesn’t matter, McGraw said it will help the team get back into the swing of things — especially the freshmen, though McGraw said she did not anticipate starting any of them.
“The thing I like about the exhibition is they put on a uniform, they get in front of fans for the first time, lights are on, it’s starting to matter now,” McGraw said. “It’s important for us to get into the pregame routine where we come out and do our walkthrough. I think all of that is good for them, so when they come out for the regular season, they feel a little more comfortable.”
The Irish tip off in their exhibition against Wayne State at noon Saturday at Purcell Pavilion. The regular season will get underway with a Nov. 15 home game against Bucknell.