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ND Women’s Basketball: McGraw not satisfied, even in blowout victory

Jay Fitzpatrick | Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Notre Dame won its second exhibition game Monday, scored at will in the paint and dropped 96 points on Div. II Hillsdale, and still Irish head coach Muffet McGraw was not satisfied.

“I was disappointed in our defense. I was disappointed in our effort defensively. We looked lackadaisical,” McGraw said. “We looked tired. Mentally, I just didn’t think we had the focus and intensity that we needed.”

The Irish gave up 64 points to the Chargers, the most points Notre Dame has allowed in an exhibition since the 2003-04 season when it gave up 65 to Northwest Sports.

Although the Irish forced 25 turnovers and blocked eight shots, McGraw said the defense was “awful” against the Chargers.

“We need to be reintroduced to the concepts of defense, fundamentally in terms of boxing out, approach, containing the ball,” McGraw said. “We were horrendous defensively … and so I think we have a lot of work to do.”

McGraw was particularly disappointed with her post players. She said the forwards, unlike the guards, were bad on both ends of the court.

The Irish scored most of their points in the paint, but that statistic is misleading. Irish centers Erica Williamson and Melissa D’Amico combined for only 12 total points (four from D’Amico and eight from Williamson).

On the stat sheet, the Irish blocks were one major highlight, but not in McGraw’s eyes.

“I don’t think we played smart defensively in terms of when to block and when not to,” she said.

Fixing this problem, Williamson said, will take a combination of increased mental and tactical effort.

“We have to play sound defense and if we get blocks, that’s excellent, but we have to know to play defense, ” she said.

On the other hand, the Irish guards were fantastic in their plays in the paint. Lindsey Schrader set the tone early with multiple putback layups that got Notre Dame the early confidence it needed for the game. Ashley Barlow improved her jumpshot over the offseason and finished 5-of-9 with 13 points. Barlow was also pesky in the press, grabbing a game-high five steals.

The highlight for the Irish was Tulyah Gaines. Gaines drove the ball hard inside, finishing 8-of-11 shooting with 16 points before she was injured.

“I think if most our points were inside, it wasn’t the centers. I was disappointed in their play tonight,” McGraw said. “I think we had a huge advantage and we didn’t take advantage of it. I think most of our shots in the lane were drives from our guards. I think we have a lot of work to do to get points from the block.”

Notre Dame’s advantage was one of pure size. D’Amico (6-foot-5) and Williamson (6-foot-4) are both taller and stronger than Chargers forward Katie Cezat (6-foot). But in spite of that, Cezat was able to dominate the Irish post players, finishing with 23 points and eight rebounds.

“[Cezat] was a post player. I was disappointed in our post defense because she just shot over us,” McGraw said. “And I thought we gave her a little too much of a cushion and I thought she was able to go around us sometimes.”