ND Women’s Basketball
Defense leads Notre Dame to victory
Daniel O'Boyle | Monday, November 23, 2015
No. 3 Notre Dame delivered another impressive defensive performance in its first road game of the season, defeating South Dakota State, 75-64, on Saturday at Frost Arena in Brookings, South Dakota.
The Irish (3-0) held the Jackrabbits (2-1) to 22-of-66 shooting and pulled away in the third quarter after a tight first half.
Notre Dame started slowly and found itself behind at the end of a quarter for the first time this season, as South Dakota State took a 17-15 lead into the break after the first period. The Jackrabbits continued to hang with the Irish through the second period and took a 26-24 lead with 3:20 remaining in the half. Graduate student guard Madison Cable put the Irish ahead with a three-pointer before making a steal on the next South Dakota State possession and sinking the layup to put Notre Dame up by three, 29-26. The Irish took a 34-31 lead into halftime and never trailed again in the game. Irish head coach Muffet McGraw said her team’s lack of offensive rhythm prevented them from pulling away early on.
“Offensively, we just don’t have our flow yet,” McGraw said. “We need to get our rhythm back offensively. We’re still learning each other, so I think we can get a lot better.
“I think we missed some shots, especially free throws. We must have missed eight or nine free throws, which is really unusual for us. And they’re a really good defensive team; they made it really hard for us to score. I think we missed some people that were open inside, we could have gone inside a little more.”
The Irish did enough defensively to hold the first half lead, though. Sophomore guard Brianna Turner had six first-half rebounds, and the team held the Jackrabbits to 10-for-34 shooting in the half. McGraw said the Irish defensive communication was a highlight, particularly in front of a South Dakota State record regular-season crowd of 5,532.
“I thought defensively we did a lot of really good things,” McGraw said. “I think we’re improving defensively, I thought our communication was great — we did a really good job switching — and I think we did a pretty good job on the boards. I’m really happy with how we handled the environment. It was a very loud crowd; it was hard to hear each other so I thought we handled the whole atmosphere really well.”
The Irish looked much more effective in the third quarter, scoring 24 points as they widened the lead to 60-49, thanks in part to an 8-0 run towards the end of the quarter that briefly put the Irish up by 14 before South Dakota State junior guard Kerri Young sank a three-pointer at the end of the period.
The game was not out of reach until late in the fourth quarter. The Jackrabbits closed the score to 68-60 with just over three minutes left thanks to another 3-pointer from Young, but six late points from Turner, who finished as the leading Irish scorer with 20 to add to her nine rebounds, helped ensure the Irish left with the victory. McGraw said the close game gave her a chance to see how her team handled difficult situations.
“Our poise down the stretch was really great,” McGraw said. “It was great we had a chance to play a close game to really have to work at the end to control the ball and run our stuff, and we executed really well.”
The Irish will next travel to Valparaiso tonight before going to the Bahamas for the 13th Annual Junkanoo Jam, where they will play in the Freeport Division with Denver, Louisiana Tech and UCLA. The Irish have a 25-0 record against the Crusaders, including a 96-46 victory in their last meeting in 2013, but McGraw said Valparaiso can be a difficult place to play.
“We’ve had some really tough games at Valparaiso, some very close games,” McGraw said. “It’s another road trip, so it’s another chance for the freshmen to get a feel for playing away from home, I think it’s a game where we’re just worrying about our intensity and how we come out. That’s going to be a big key for us.”
The Irish and the Crusaders will tip off 8 p.m. Monday night at the Athletics-Recreation Center at Valparaiso. Notre Dame and Denver will tip off at St. George’s High School in Freeport, Bahamas, on Friday at 3:15 p.m.