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ND Women’s Basketball

Brianna Turner leads Notre Dame into conference contest

| Thursday, February 18, 2016

No. 2 Notre Dame looks to secure a double-bye in the ACC tournament Thursday when it hits the road to battle Wake Forest.

Coming off a strong 90-69 win over Miami (Fla.) on Sunday, the Irish (24-1, 12-0 ACC) are in a position to secure a top-four seed and double-bye in the conference tournament with a win over the Demon Deacons (15-11, 6-7). Irish head coach Muffet McGraw said securing the double-bye is important for postseason success but isn’t the team’s focus right now.

“That’s essential,” McGraw said. “I don’t think you can win [the ACC tournament] without the double-bye, so I think that that’s really important, but we’re not thinking in those terms. We’re just looking at, you know, can we just keep winning?”

The Irish will need to be focused when they take the court at Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum, as the matchup has all the makings of the proverbial trap game. The Demon Deacons have quietly been on a roll, having won four straight games, while the Irish have a battle with No. 10 Florida State looming Monday. However, the leaders in the locker room have done a great job of keeping everyone focused on the present task, McGraw said.

“One thing we’ve always been able to do is focus on the game at hand,” McGraw said. “ … And that’s our leadership; it’s their job in the locker room to make sure nobody is looking past anyone. And we can’t afford to. I mean, it’s too important right now. Everybody knows what’s at stake. We’re undefeated in the conference right now, and we want to stay that way. We’ve got to be ready for every game because we know, in this league, we’ve had some tests and a lot of games this year that we didn’t play our best. … Everybody is gonna give us a great game on the road, so we’ve gotta be ready.”

During their winning streak, the Demon Deacons have been led by the play of sophomore guard Amber Campbell, who was named the ACC Player of the Week for this past week. During the Demon Deacons’ four-game winning streak, Campbell has averaged 17.5 points per game, including 27 in the Demon Deacons’ win over Duke. McGraw said she will be a difficult matchup for the Irish, especially if sophomore guard Mychal Johnson is unable to play due to a concussion.

“She’s good because she can shoot it, and she can drive it so she’s tough to defend,” McGraw said. “And right now it looks like Mychal Johnson is not going to be able to play because she had a concussion [during the Miami game], so she’s questionable I would say for this game, and we kinda like putting her on some of those guards so that hurts us defensively. [Campbell’s] gonna be a tough matchup for us.”

On the offensive side of the ball, the Irish had 23 turnovers in Sunday’s win. While junior guard Lindsay Allen’s foul trouble played a significant role in the increased sloppiness, defenses have began to key in on sophomore forward Brianna Turner and have made it difficult to get her the ball inside, McGraw said.

Irish guard Lindsay Allen drives the lane during Notre Dame’s 90-69 win over Miami (Fla.) on Sunday at Purcell Pavilion.Kathleen Donahue | The Observer
Irish guard Lindsay Allen drives the lane during Notre Dame’s 90-69 win over Miami (Fla.) on Sunday at Purcell Pavilion.

“The defense is definitely keying on her, and they’re devising new ways to try to guard her,” McGraw said. “Like when we have a two-on-one, they’re staying on her, and we’re forcing passes I think. We’re looking for her, but we’re turning it over more. And then there are times when I think we could get it to her more.”

However, the Irish have shot under 40 percent from the field in their last three games on the road. As a result, McGraw said she wants her team to continue to get the ball to Turner inside for higher-percentage shots against the Demon Deacons.

“[The lower shooting percentage] is not a big concern,” McGraw said. “You always shoot better at home just because you’re used to the rims, but I think that’s why we got to go inside more because Bri’s gonna shoot 60 percent from the floor, so we need to get better shots.”

Notre Dame and Wake Forest are scheduled to tip off at Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Thursday at 7 p.m.

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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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