ND Women’s Basketball
Notre Dame dominated in all phases of the game in a pair of weekend wins, blowing out Chattanooga, 88-53, on Friday and Holy Cross, 104-29, on Sunday.
The victory over the Knights was the fifth biggest margin of victory in program history and marked the first round of the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame Challenge.
The Mocs (2-2), on the other hand, kept it close with the Irish (4-0) through the opening minutes, holding a lead until almost nine minutes into the first half.
At that point, Irish sophomore guard Lindsay Allen sprinted downcourt after a missed Chattanooga 3-point shot and weaved through Moc defenders to notch a layup at the other end.
Notre Dame took the 17-16 lead, went on a 29-5 run to close the half and never looked back.
“A little sluggish at the start — I couldn’t figure out why that was happening, but we worked it out,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said.
Junior guard Jewell Loyd paced the Irish with 20 points, but it was the game of freshman guard Mychal Johnson that fired up the crowd at Purcell Pavilion.
Johnson hit five 3-pointers in six attempts, collecting 17 points off the bench.
Shortly after Allen made her layup to give Notre Dame the lead, Johnson blocked a Chattanooga 3-pointer and then hit her own shot behind the arc at the other end off an assist from Allen, sending the Irish bench and fans into a frenzy.
“I love it,” Loyd said of Johnson’s game. “Everyone on the bench was going nuts and encouraging her, and we were telling her, ‘Keep shooting, keep playing defense.’ Everyone who comes off the bench is ready, and we love it. We loving cheering them on. I’m their biggest cheerleader for sure, and it’s great to see.”
Though the Irish held a slim rebounding advantage at the half, with 15 to Chattanooga’s 11, they controlled the boards in the second half to put together a final 40-25 margin.
“We finally started rebounding, and I think that’s what changed the game,” McGraw said. “… We finally hit the boards, and Mychal came in and hit some 3s, and that was pretty much the game.”
Against Holy Cross, on the other hand, the Irish set the tone right away when freshman forward Brianna Turner easily won the tipoff to pave the way for a quick layup by Loyd, who finished with 17 points, six rebounds and five assists. Those two points turned into a double-digit lead in less than 13 minutes of play.
“I was pleased with the game,” McGraw said. “I thought there were a lot of good individual performances but I thought we really shared the ball well today and shot a little bit better from the perimeter. Defensively, I thought we did a lot of good things. We were able to get some traps, get some steals, and our transition game was in high gear.”
When junior guard Michaela Mabrey started hitting 3-pointers, Holy Cross was forced to abandon its zone defense game plan, which allowed Notre Dame to run over the Crusaders in the paint.
In particular, Holy Cross had no answer for sophomore forward Taya Reimer or Turner, who took charge on the inside both offensively and defensively. Reimer recorded eight points, four blocks and 10 rebounds, while Turner ended the game with 19 points and seven rebounds, though she played only 17 minutes.
“I’m particularly pleased with what Brianna did in just 17 minutes,” Irish head coach Muffet McGraw said. “She’s an amazing defender when she can get out on the perimeter and get some steals. We were hoping for a dunk, but we didn’t get one of those tonight, so we’ll have to keep waiting.”
The score was 46-16 at the end of the first half, and the Irish did not let up as they began the second stanza with 21 unanswered points.
Before long, most of the starters were sitting, but the Irish reserves continued to widen the gap. Freshman forward Kathryn Westbeld added 15 points to lead all reserves.
“I really like what the bench is doing right now,” McGraw said. “Everyone that comes in the game is doing exactly what we want them to do. … I think we’ve got 10 people [we’re comfortable with] right now and all of them are really contributing.”
Notre Dame continues the Hall of Fame tournament Monday with a game against Harvard in Purcell Pavilion at 6 p.m.