ND Women’s Basketball
Green Bay visits Irish in WNIT semifinals
Renee Griffin | Thursday, November 17, 2016
With two lopsided wins in the Preseason WNIT to start the season, No. 1 Notre Dame will welcome Green Bay to Purcell Pavilion on Thursday night for a semifinal matchup.
The Irish (2-0) defeated Central Michigan, 107-47, and Fordham, 67-36, to reach this point of the tournament, while the Phoenix (2-0) beat Elon, 71-56, and Little Rock, 57-31. The winner of Thursday’s game will face either No. 25 Missouri or No. 17 Washington in the finals.
Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw said Green Bay, which has won the Horizon League regular season title for 18 seasons in a row, is not an opponent to count out.
“They’re a tough, challenging team,” McGraw said. “They have so much experience. They’re just really, really smart, they play well together, they’ve got great chemistry [and] a really good coach. … They’re just that team that nobody wants to see appear in their bracket.”
Notre Dame has a distinct size advantage over Green Bay, as it did against Fordham, a team that they limited to fewer than 40 points. McGraw said she hopes her squad can replicate that defensive performance given that Green Bay and Fordham run somewhat similar offenses.
“I was pleasantly surprised by our defense,” McGraw said. “I thought we played really, really well defensively against Fordham. We’ve been working on that a lot.”
The Irish guards did the bulk of the scoring against Fordham on Monday, with senior Lindsay Allen and sophomore Arike Ogunbowale each notching 13 points. Ogunbowale was also named ACC Player of the Week for her 30-point effort against Central Michigan on Friday.
However, given the strategies Green Bay is likely to employ against the bigger Irish team, McGraw said one focus for the Irish will be staying strong in the post.
“We need to be physical,” McGraw said. “We need to continue to be aggressive. That’s something that we’re working on, and something that we’re, I think, capable of.
“I don’t think it bothers Koko [senior forward Kristina Nelson] nearly as much, and Kat [junior forward Kathryn Westbeld] — they’re fine with physical games. That plays into what they want to do. I think Bri [junior forward Brianna Turner] is probably not used to getting beat up so much; I think we can help her manage that a little bit more.”
Though both Central Michigan and Fordham ended up losing by fairly wide margins to the top-ranked Irish, McGraw said she’s been pleased with the challenges her team has already been faced with two games into the regular season in terms of variety.
“I was really happy we got to see so many different things,” McGraw said. “We saw all kinds of zones, we saw different kinds of man-to-man, we saw a slow-down team, we saw a speed-it-up team.
“I think we’re getting great experience, which is exactly what we want this time of the year. I’m excited about continuing to learn what teams are going to do to us.”
Notre Dame and Green Bay will fight to extend their respective 2-0 records when they tip off Thursday at Purcell Pavilion at 7 p.m.