ND Women’s Basketball
Balanced attack helps Irish declaw Tigers
Mary Green | Monday, January 26, 2015
After four games in 10 days, Irish coach Muffet McGraw was finally able to empty her bench as No. 6 Notre Dame cruised to a 74-36 win over Clemson on Saturday at Littlejohn Coliseum in Clemson, South Carolina.
The victory comes two days after McGraw criticized her team’s performance in an 89-76 win over Georgia Tech, in which she said she was “extremely disappointed.”
McGraw said Notre Dame (19-2, 6-1 ACC) watched a lot of film in preparation for the Tigers (9-11, 1-6) to regain its focus.
“[We] talked about the rebounding, talked about focusing on the scouting report, talked about how we really needed to know who the better players were on the other team, who we really needed team defense on, not just individual defense, so there was a greater awareness on the floor tonight,” she said.
Notre Dame held an overwhelming size advantage over Clemson, which started just one player taller than 5-foot-10. The Irish capitalized on their height, consistently feeding the ball down low for 42 points in the paint and outrebounding the Tigers, 46-26.
Six-foot-three freshman forward Brianna Turner totaled 15 points and 10 rebounds for her fifth double-double of the season, and 6-foot-3 sophomore forward Taya Reimer and 6-foot-2 freshman forward Kathryn Westbeld added 10 and 11 points, respectively.
The strong post presence helped Notre Dame go on a 40-6 run during the first half to create too large a deficit for Clemson to overcome.
“We wanted to look inside. That was our game plan from the start,” McGraw said. “We did have a huge advantage size-wise, and I thought we were able to look in because we do run a lot of guard stuff, and they were very unselfish tonight, looking in.”
Junior guard Jewell Loyd led the Irish with 17 points on 6-for-7 shooting and two 3-pointers. Loyd also chipped in eight rebounds, which matched Reimer’s mark.
The rout allowed Notre Dame’s starters to ride the bench for a longer period of time than they normally do, especially after the last three tough games against No. 12 North Carolina, No. 5 Tennessee and Georgia Tech.
Every player who dressed Saturday, which was the entire roster, minus injured senior guard Whitney Holloway and injured sophomore forward Kristina Nelson, saw time on the court and scored.
“The starters love being on the bench watching the rest of the team, cheer for them,” McGraw said. “They work so hard in practice. They do all they can to help us get better, and it’s great for them to be rewarded with some playing time.”
Leading Notre Dame’s reserves force was junior forward Hannah Huffman, who played 20 minutes, the most among the non-starters. Huffman has averaged 12.3 minutes in 19 games so far this season, an increase from 7.7 minutes during her first two seasons.
“She’s been a real spark,” McGraw said. “… Tonight, she guarded the other team’s best player when Jewell went out, and she did a really good job on her. She raises the intensity level for everyone because she’s willing to dive for loose balls and take charges and things like that.”
The Irish limited Tigers senior guard Nikki Dixon to only six makes on 17 shot attempts for 15 points.
Overall, Clemson shot just 28.6 percent from the floor for the game, with 14 field goals, seven second-chance points and 14 points in the paint.
“I was very pleased with the defensive effort,” McGraw said. “I thought we rebounded well. I thought we had a lot more intensity and focus on who we were keying on defensively.”
After a packed, 10-day stretch of competition, the Irish will have more time to rest before they return to the court to face Virginia Tech on the road next Thursday.
“We’re going to be off tomorrow, and then we’ll get back to practice and start focusing on our next game and seeing how we can get better,” McGraw said. “There’s a lot of things we still need to work on.”