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ND Women’s Basketball: Different season, same result

Matthew Robison | Thursday, December 6, 2012

Despite 24 points and seven rebounds from freshman guard Jewell Loyd, No. 5 Notre Dame succumbed to defending national champion No. 3 Baylor 73-61 in Purcell Pavilion on Wednesday.

“We’re just going to get so much better,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “We didn’t shoot the ball as well as we could have. But Jewell, I thought, was outstanding. She really, really played well.”

The Irish shut down Baylor senior All-American center Brittney Griner for the first several minutes of the game, limiting her touches by fronting and doubling down on her. But at the end of the first half, the Lady Bears caught fire, hitting their last nine shots of the period from the field and taking a 33-27 lead into halftime.

Loyd was 4-for-5 from behind the arc, but the rest of the Irish struggled offensively. Senior guard Skylar Diggins, who averages 14 points per game, was held to just 4-for-19 shooting from the field.

As a team, the Irish shot just 35.7 percent from the field. Baylor, on the other hand, shot 49.2 percent.
Notre Dame did, however, force 20 turnovers.

“Sky led us as she always does, defensively,” McGraw said.

In her first game back after an injury that kept her out of four games, including a loss to No. 1 Stanford, Baylor senior guard Odyssey Sims scored 16 points, going 10-for-10 from the free throw line.

Griner was a force offensively, defensively and on the glass. She finished with 24 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks.
Notre Dame jumped out to an early 11-5 lead off a quick six points from junior guard Kayla McBride. It led by as many as nine in the first half, but poor transition defense and a series of rushed field goal attempts as the shot clock expired by Notre Dame allowed Baylor to establish a 20-5 run near the end of the half.

Irish junior forwards Ariel Braker and Natalie Achonwa often double-teamed Griner as soon as she caught the ball, in an attempt to force someone else to beat them offensively. Baylor freshman guard Alexis Prince hit her first two shots, which were wide open as a result of the double team.

Griner didn’t get her first field goal attempt until 13:21 remained in the first half, as she hit a soft jump hook over Achonwa.
In the second half, the turnovers started to pile up for Notre Dame. With just a few minutes to play, Baylor stretched the lead to 10 and Notre Dame could never recover.

“A couple of times we got beat down the floor defensively and they got a couple easy baskets,” McGraw said.

Despite the loss, McGraw found confidence in her young team’s performance against one of the best teams in the country early in the season.

“All the things that went wrong tonight I think we can fix,” McGraw said.

On top of having the 6-foot-8 Griner in the paint, Baylor was bigger than Notre Dame at every position on the floor at times Wednesday. The Lady Bears’ size prevented the Irish from running the sorts of offenses they normally like to employ.

“We like the four-guard lineup and we weren’t able to play that very much tonight,” McGraw said.

Even though Baylor had a size advantage, McGraw expected her team to rebound better than it did. The Lady Bears outrebounded the Irish 44-35.

“That was probably one of the most disappointing things was the lack of rebounding for the most part,” McGraw said.

McBride was the second-leading scorer for the Irish on Wednesday, adding 18 points and five rebounds. But only four Irish players scored, and Baylor’s bench outscored Notre Dame’s 14-0.

Baylor senior guard Jordan Madden had 12 points and graduate student forward Brooklyn Pope  had 14 points for the Lady Bears. Pope accounted for all of Baylor’s bench points.

Notre Dame’s next test is Saturday against Utah State at 12 p.m. in Purcell Pavilion.

Contact Matthew Robison at [email protected]