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ND Women’s Basketball

Irish head to South Dakota State

| Thursday, November 19, 2015

No. 3 Notre Dame will travel to Brookings, South Dakota, this weekend to take on South Dakota State in its first road game of the season Saturday.

The Irish (2-0) are coming off of a 74-39 win over Toledo in which they dominated the Rockets defensively. Now, as the team prepares for its first road test of the season, it will look to repeat that effort in order to come away with another win.

Sophomore forward Brianna Turner turns away from UConn defender Breanna Stewart during Notre Dame’s 63-53 loss in the national title game April 7 at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida.Observer File Photo
Sophomore forward Brianna Turner turns away from UConn defender Breanna Stewart during Notre Dame’s 63-53 loss in the national title game April 7 at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida.

The Jackrabbits (2-0) are by no means a big-name program, but they have come out of the gates hot this season, winning games over Marist and Arkansas in the first two games of their three-game homestand to start the season.

Offensively, the Jackrabbits have been strong, scoring 77 and 76 points respectively in each of the team’s first two wins. In particular, they have been led by the play of sophomore guard Macy Miller, who leads South Dakota State with 25 points per game.

The Irish, however, have also looked prolific on offense early on. They have scored 85 and 74 points in each of their wins and feature a more balanced offensive attack, as freshman guard Marina Mabrey, sophomore forwards Brianna Turner and Kathryn Westbeld and graduate student guard Madison Cable are all averaging 10 or more points per game.

Defensively, however, the Irish have been far better than the Jackrabbits. While the Jackrabbits have allowed 137 points over the first two games of the season, the Irish have held their opponents to a mere 93.

In particular, the Irish are coming off a defensive performance against Toledo in which they held the Rockets to 39 points. After the game, Irish head coach Muffet McGraw credited much the improvement defensively from the win over Bucknell to junior forward Taya Reimer’s return to the lineup.

“I think the big thing with Taya is her experience,” McGraw said. “She has big game experience. She has the defensive ability and is a good communicator. With everything she does, she makes us a little bit more confident because she has done it all before. Having that experience in the lineup is really important for us.”

While the season is still young for Notre Dame, the matchup on Saturday is the toughest the Irish have had thus far on paper. South Dakota State has been looking forward to welcoming the challenge the Irish represent for a while now, McGraw said.

“I think it’s a sellout,” McGraw said. “From what I’ve heard, the tickets have been gone since August or September, so they really like their women’s basketball in South Dakota.”

As a result, the Irish expect the environment to be a hostile one. With it being the first road game of the year for the team, McGraw said preparing the younger players for their first road game is the biggest concern for the Irish. McGraw said she hopes the team’s veterans will lead by example for the younger players as they prepare for their first game in a hostile environment.

“It’s our first road game, so that’s always a challenge,” McGraw said. “It’s our first hostile arena, [but] we have a veteran group starting, so we hope they’ll be setting the tone.

“Then, after that, [it’s about] getting the freshman adjusted on the road. Everything’s new, so that’s always a concern.”

The Irish and Jackrabbits are set to tip off at 3 p.m. Saturday at Frost Arena in Brookings, South Dakota.

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About Benjamin Padanilam

Ben is a senior and The Observer’s former Editor-in-Chief, now serving as its interim Sports Editor. He is in the Program of Liberal Studies (PLS) and also pursuing minors in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) and Business Economics. He hails from Toledo, Ohio, and has enjoyed the few highs and many lows of being a Cleveland sports fan.

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