ND Women’s Basketball
Irish prepping for physical Pittsburgh
Samantha Zuba | Thursday, February 26, 2015
It’s been a mantra for the No. 4 Irish all season: Get more aggressive.
Notre Dame (26-2, 13-1 ACC) will suit up against Pittsburgh on Thursday at 7 p.m. for its last home game of the season and will need to work on its physical play for the upcoming ACC tournament, Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. The ACC’s physical style was on display Monday night in the 68-52 Irish win over No. 8 Louisville.
“I think everybody’s going to try to be physical with us,” McGraw said. “That seems to be the game plan for everybody coming in. [Louisville] was a really physical game. I feel like every game in the ACC has been a really physical game … people are probably using that against us because we’re not quite as physical as I would like right now.
“That’s probably the one thing that we can see that we need to get better at.”
The Irish can look to one of their smaller-statured senior leaders if they aim to ramp up their physicality — if they decide not to put McGraw on the court.
“Well, I could lace ’em up, and I think show them something,” McGraw said. “I think it’s an attitude. Look at someone like [senior guard] Madison [Cable], who is not that big and not strong, but boy, she’s going to work, and she’s going to battle, and that’s really that attitude of competing that we need.”
The 5-foot-11 Cable has grabbed team-high rebounds in two games this season, with eight boards against Boston College on Feb. 8 and with 11 versus Georgia Tech on Feb. 19. She has been a valuable asset coming off the bench for Notre Dame, averaging 6.2 points and 4.4 rebounds per game.
Following Thursday’s matchup against Pittsburgh (18-9, 8-6), the regular season wraps up Sunday for Notre Dame with a road game against North Carolina State. At this point in the season, the Irish remain optimistic and still are working to improve, junior guard Jewell Loyd said.
“We’re definitely building, and that’s what you want to do,” Loyd said. “You want to get better every single game, and that’s what we’re doing.”
One win against either Pittsburgh or North Carolina State (16-11, 7-7) would clinch a share of the ACC regular-season title for the Irish and a No. 1 seed in the conference tournament. Defeating both the Panthers and the Wolfpack would secure the regular-season title outright.
Pitt is tied for seventh in the ACC with Miami (Fla.), which defeated Notre Dame on Jan. 8.
Senior guard Brianna Kiesel (18.0 points per game) and graduate student forward Monica Wignot (11.0) spark the scoring charge for the Panthers. Kiesel’s scoring clip earns her fourth place in the ACC, with Notre Dame’s Loyd continuing to top the group. Kiesel also ranks second in the ACC in assists, behind Irish sophomore guard Lindsay Allen, and second in steals.
Freshman forwards Stasha Carey and Yacine Diop lead Pittsburgh in rebounds, with 7.6 and 7.3 boards per game, respectively.
For Notre Dame, Thursday’s starting lineup will look a little different from usual as seniors get the opportunity to start on Senior Day.
The Irish seniors are Cable, guard Whitney Holloway and forward Markisha Wright.
“It’s going to be really hard this year because we have three non-starters who will be starting, so that’s going to be a completely different look to the offense, to the defense,” McGraw said. “But I’m sure that they are ready for their opportunity.”
The Irish take on the Panthers on Thursday at Purcell Pavilion, with tipoff scheduled for 7 p.m.