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ND Women’s Basketball: Bench contributes to Sweet 16 win

Molly Sammon | Monday, March 26, 2012

Raleigh, N.C. – Notre Dame took the opportunity to test its bench in its 79-35 win over St. Bonaventure on Sunday, qualifying for the Elite Eight, while several nonstarters received significant playing minutes, a rarity in Sweet 16 competition.

Each player contributed at least eight minutes of time on the court to keep the starters rested and the back-ups well-versed in competitive situations as the tournament continues.

“When you go down through the team, you realize that they are all the type of player that just hates to lose,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said.

Thirty-one of Notre Dame’s 79 points came from five different non-starting players: sophomore forward Natalie Achonwa, senior guard Fraderica Miller, junior guard Kaila Turner, freshman forward Markisha Wright and sophomore forward Ariel Braker.

Turner came off the bench, played 18 minutes for the Irish and scored 14 points. She went 4-for-5 from the 3-point line.

“It felt really good just because my teammates and my coaching staff have a lot of confidence in me, so it felt really good not to knock some shots out today,” Turner said.

Turner scored the second-most points for the Irish against St. Bonaventure, only two points shy of starting senior guard Natalie Novosel’s 16.

“It’s really important for [Turner] to come out and do that for us, and it’s difficult because she doesn’t get a lot of shots,” McGraw said. “She’s not going to get a lot of opportunity; she’s going to get one or two shots when she comes in the game because we have so many other scorers. Today was a great day for her, and the whole team gets excited to see her score.”

Turner’s performance behind the 3-point line mirrored what the Irish expected from St. Bonaventures’ senior guard Jessica Jenkins, who concluded her collegiate basketball career with the most career 3-pointers in the nation among active players, with 338 over her four seasons with the Bonnies.

“[Turner] was Jenkins all week in practice, and she was shooting a lot of threes,” McGraw said. “Maybe that’s what we need to do, is have her be the other team’s best player.”

Turner said her ability to come off the bench and perform well for the Irish can also be attributed to the pressure she faces scrimmaging her teammates in practice.

“I think practice makes it much easier for me because we really push each other in practice, and I’m going up against some of the best guards in the country,” she said. “So it makes it easier coming out and coming off the bench and playing against this competition.”

Achonwa also came off the bench and contributed her fair share in Notre Dame’s win, adding nine points and five rebounds as the team’s fourth-leading scorer and second-leading rebounder in the victory.

“It was a total team effort today,” Irish junior guard Skylar Diggins said. “Building such a big lead early was a good thing for us. A lot of our players were able to rotate in, and I feel that is going to be key going into Tuesday’s game.”


Contact Molly Sammon at [email protected]