ND Women’s Basketball
ND, Louisville face off with top spot on line
Renee Griffin | Sunday, February 22, 2015
The No. 4 Irish will fight to maintain their hold on the top spot in the ACC when No. 8 Louisville visits Purcell Pavilion on Monday at 7 p.m.
Notre Dame (25-2, 12-1 ACC) is on an 11-game winning streak following a 71-61 victory over Georgia Tech on Thursday that remained close until the end. Meanwhile, the Cardinals (23-3, 11-2 ACC) are just one game behind the Irish in the conference and have won four in a row.
“That win [against Georgia Tech] was really important because we have a tenuous hold on first place,” McGraw said. “We focus on one game at a time, and Louisville’s the next game we’re focused on.”
Both teams have potent offensive attacks. Notre Dame is No. 1 in the ACC in scoring at 83.6 points per game, while Louisville comes in at No. 4 with 75.3 points per game. However, the Cardinals are atop the conference in scoring defense.
A major task for the Louisville defense will be limiting Notre Dame junior guard Jewell Loyd, who leads the ACC in points per game at 21.07. The Irish relied on Loyd to pull them out of a one-point deficit at halftime against Georgia Tech, with 23 of Loyd’s 31 points coming in the second half.
The top-10 matchup between the Irish and the Cardinals will also be a battle between two of the country’s top freshmen forwards: Notre Dame’s Brianna Turner and Louisville’s Mariya Moore. Turner is No. 12 in the ACC in scoring at 14.6 points per game, and Moore is just one spot below with an average of 14.1.
The game against Louisville is important not only because of implications for the ACC standings, but also because of the teams’ histories against each other, McGraw said. In 14 games between the two teams, Notre Dame is 10-4 – including 7-0 in the last seven meetings.
“It’s a big game; they’re really talented,” McGraw said. “It was a pretty good rivalry when we were in the Big East together, and I think it will continue to be a great rivalry.”
McGraw said the team needs to focus more on toughness and rebounding going into the game. Notre Dame is averaging 41.9 rebounds per game this season, while Louisville averages 43.
“I think we have to play a little bit tougher and get rebounds,” McGraw said. “It’s just a matter of them having a greater sense of urgency.”
Louisville is Notre Dame’s ninth ranked opponent of the season and will likely be the last one until the postseason. After Monday night, only two games remain on the Irish regular season schedule, the first against Pittsburgh and the second against North Carolina State.
The clash between the Irish and the Cardinals begins Monday at 7 p.m. in Purcell Pavilion.