ND Women’s Basketball
Kicking things off with a bang
Mary Green | Wednesday, November 5, 2014
If the No. 3 Irish had any nervous energy flowing before Wednesday’s exhibition win against Ferris State, they did not let it show on the court, cruising to a 92-32 win against the Bulldogs at Purcell Pavilion.Sophomore forward Taya Reimer led the Irish effort with a double-double, scoring 10 points and grabbing 11 rebounds in 18 minutes of play.
“I thought Taya played just a great game — showed a lot of experience, a lot of maturity,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “[She] just looked really, really comfortable in the game, leading rebounder, scored as much as she wanted to. She probably could’ve scored a little bit more, but we’re just really unselfish with the ball.”
Freshman forward Brianna Turner contributed a double-double as well in her first game in an Irish uniform, tallying 13 points and 10 rebounds.
Turner collected eight of those points in the paint, where teammates found her throughout the game after sprinting down on fast breaks.
“I thought Brianna did a nice job on the boards,” McGraw said. “[She] did a great job running the break, something new for her, for us.”
After losing three starters from last season to graduation, Notre Dame rolled out a revamped starting lineup, with Turner, Reimer and junior guard Michaela Mabrey joining last year’s returning starters, junior guard Jewell Loyd and sophomore guard Lindsay Allen.
McGraw initially did not envision Turner starting in the first game of the season, despite Turner’s status as a highly heralded recruit, but she said the freshman impressed her in recent practices.“She earned it, but it did happen quickly,” McGraw said. “I think that her ability coming in, as far as rebounding and defense, blocking shots, was something that we really needed, and she filled that void immediately.
“And she just gets more comfortable every day. It’s fun coming to practice and seeing what improvements she’s going to make that day because she’s just going to get better, and she’s been doing that on a consistent basis.”
The Irish opened the game with 28 straight points, getting started right away with an easy layup from Loyd after Turner tapped the opening tip to Reimer, who found Loyd underneath the basket. Loyd scored Notre Dame’s first six points off the layup, a putback of a miss by Mabrey and a second layup on a fast break.
Though she played only 18 minutes Wednesday night, significantly less than her 29.8-minute average last season, Loyd led all scorers with 20 points. She added eight rebounds, two assists, two blocks and a steal to round out a solid performance on both ends of the court.
“Jewell Loyd was pretty much unstoppable, which is what we hope her to be most of the year,” McGraw said.
Ferris State did not get on the board until nearly midway through the first half when Bulldogs redshirt sophomore forward Christina Branch’s layup brought the score to 28-2.
Up until that point, the Irish defense had forced eight Ferris State turnovers and 12 missed shots.
Notre Dame also collected 38 points off 32 total Bulldogs turnovers throughout the game, with eight Irish players registering at least one steal.
“That’s definitely something that coach has been wanting us to focus on, is defense,” Reimer said. “And so using a game like this, we’re trying to focus on doing the little things on defense and just focusing on everything we can and trying to get better, and obviously, we’ll watch film on that and try to improve.”
The Irish held a 51-30 rebounding advantage and allowed the Bulldogs to pull down just 10 offensive boards.
McGraw said part of that rebounding success stems from a friendly competition between Reimer and Turner.“Both of them actually have a goal of a double-double [each game],” McGraw said. “They’re competing for the leading rebounder and most double-doubles this season.”
Turner played 20 minutes in her debut, and her fellow freshmen joined her on the court for much of that time.
Forward Kathryn Westbeld entered the game after the first media timeout to begin her 18 minutes of play. In that time, she scored five points, dished out three assists and swiped a team-high five steals.
McGraw said she sees Westbeld as a key reserve this season.
“Right now, she’s probably the seventh man,” McGraw said. “I see her coming in and playing quite a bit. She’s also a tough matchup. She can shoot 3s; she can score on the block. I think she’s going to be a really good player for us.”
Guard Mychal Johnson also saw significant time on the floor, taking over as point guard for much of the second half and playing 24 minutes, the longest appearance of any Irish player.
Johnson knocked down three 3-point shots as part of her 15 points, second only to Loyd’s total.
“Mychal Johnson, coming off the bench, had a fantastic first time out,” McGraw said.
A packed Purcell Pavilion watched the Irish open their season, with 8,174 fans in attendance. That mark is the second-highest for a Notre Dame exhibition in program history.
“I thought that was a great beginning for us, a good chance for the freshmen to get in front of the crowd — great crowd — a chance for them to see what it’s like to put the uniform on.”
After the tune-up victory, the team will next lace up for its season opener against UMass Lowell on Oct. 14, at Purcell Pavilion.