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ND Women’s Basketball

Irish win eight of nine, fall to Louisville

| Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Before Thursday, No. 5 Notre Dame hadn’t given up 100 points in a game in almost 20 years.

But on that day, the Irish could do nothing to stop Louisville from piling up points, as the Cardinals hit triple digits behind 30-points games for both senior forward Myisha Hines-Allen and junior guard Asia Durr, dealing the Irish a 100-67 defeat, their first conference loss of the season.

Although the Irish won each of their other eight games over the winter period, including bouncing back with an 89-60 victory over Boston College, the 33-point loss — the team’s largest since the 2002 NCAA Tournament — cast a shadow over the otherwise successful break period.

The Irish eased past Penn, holding a 20-point lead with 1:28 left before winning 66-54, and beat DePaul 91-82 behind a Purcell Pavilion-record 39 points on 17-of-22 shooting from junior forward Jessica Shepard.

Notre Dame faced a tougher challenge from Marquette, giving up an eight-point lead to trail by four with just under two minutes remaining, but came back to win 91-85 in overtime. The Irish then opened conference play with four successive wins, over Syracuse, Wake Forest, Miami and Georgia Tech, setting up the clash with the Cardinals as a matchup of top-3 teams and crucial to the race for the ACC regular season title.

Although the game began with a Marina Mabrey three-pointer, the Irish found themselves in a deep hole within the opening minutes. A 23-5 run for the Cardinals saw Irish head coach Muffet McGraw’s team trail 28-11 after seven minutes and 33-16 at the end of the period, with both Hines-Allen and Durr hitting double-digit points.

“They came out ready,” McGraw said. “They delivered a knockout punch and we got knocked out in the first quarter.”

Things didn’t get much better through the second quarter, as the Irish gave up an 11-0 run in the final four minutes of the half and trailed 56-28 at halftime.

If the Irish hoped for a reprieve in the second half, they didn’t get one, as the Cardinals added 29 more points in the period, finishing with Asia Durr’s eighth three of the game. Though the outcome of the game was long decided, the Cardinals still weren’t done, stretching their lead to more than 40 points before finishing as 33-point victors. McGraw had high praise for the Cardinals and Durr in particular after the defeat.

“I thought Louisville looked like the best team in the country today,” McGraw said. “Asia Durr and Hines-Allen were just too much for us. Durr is maybe the best player in the country — we’ve played South Carolina and Connecticut, but she is just unstoppable. She’s a phenomenal guard. We tried a lot of different defenses, and none of them were really effective.

“They shot the ball extremely well. Some of it was poor defense but a lot was just them making shots.”

A lack of depth for the Irish, caused by four ACL tears that left only seven healthy scholarship players, seemed evident, as the Irish bench combined for just four points. But McGraw said she did not believe depth played a major role in the defeat.

“I don’t think it has any impact on our effort, I don’t think it impacts our intelligence on offense, I don’t think it had anything to do with the score,” she said.

The Cardinals knocked down 11 of their 17 three-point attempts and 41 of their 63 shots, while the Irish shot only 27-for-61.

Yet the Irish were able to move past the loss when they faced Boston College, recording a comfortable 89-60 victory. The Irish opened up a 9-0 lead in less than three minutes and led 42-20 by halftime, with Jessica Shepherd finishing the game with 24 points. McGraw said she was especially pleased with the team’s ability to get the ball to Shepard.

“I liked the way we came out and got things going offensively, getting the ball inside was our goal and I thought we executed that really well,” she said. “I thought Jess was really a factor inside.”

“I think we all came in with a little bit of a chip on our shoulder,” Shepard said. “That game was embarrassing, and we just wanted to get past that and play hard for our home crowd.”

Freshman walk-on guard Nicole Benz was able to make her first appearance for the Irish after being added to the roster due to Lili Thompson’s season-ending injury.

The Irish will have another top-10 matchup on Thursday, facing Tennessee at Purcell Pavilion. Tip-off is at 7 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