ND Women’s Basketball
Strong defense leads Irish to win over Fordham at Purcell Pavilion
Elizabeth Greason | Tuesday, November 15, 2016
No. 1 Notre Dame took down Fordham 67-36 in its second game of the year, despite struggling to make shots throughout the game.
Irish head coach Muffet McGraw said she felt that the win was a good one and showed that the team has the grit to win, even when things are not going its way.
“I think it’s a great thing to learn about this team that we can win ugly,” McGraw said. “I think that we missed a lot of shots, we were frustrated early and we kept our composure.”
The Irish (2-0) got off to a slow start offensively, scoring just 34 points in the first half, led by sophomore guard Arike Ogunbowale, who tallied eight points in the half.
The Irish were unable to get shots to drop, especially from beyond the three-point arc: Notre Dame converted only 13-of-32 field goal attempts in the first half. Irish senior guard Lindsay Allen, who finished with 13 points, said she tried her best to keep the team focused on defense and not playing frustrated as the shots continued to not drop.
“I think it’s definitely frustrating because I think we’re definitely a talented offensive team,” Allen said. “I just kept talking about making sure we’re continuing to play and making sure we didn’t let those missed shots affect what we do on the defensive end and what we do and how we play as a team. At times, we kind of let it affect us on the defensive end and kind of bring our energy down.”
The Irish failed to drain a single three-point shot in the entirety of the first half. The dry spell beyond the arc lasted until the final minutes of the fourth quarter when freshman forward Erin Boley drained Notre Dame’s lone three-pointer. McGraw said she felt that Notre Dame’s inability to get shots to drop can be attributed to both her team and the Rams’ defense.
“I thought it was, maybe a third of it was us,” McGraw said. “I mean, we missed some layups, we missed some easy shots. A third of it was their defense. And a third of it was the pace. I think, they wanted to take so much time on offense that by the time we got to offense, we just wanted to shoot it. We were just too anxious to shoot it. I think our shot selection could have been better. We could’ve looked in a lot more.”
The Irish were able to stifle Fordham’s offense, holding the Rams (1-1) to just 20 points in the first half. McGraw noted that her team’s defensive communication made significant progress against the Rams.
“I thought we communicated well,” McGraw said. “That’s been a little bit of a work in progress for us. I thought we did a good job talking on the screens, we did a lot of switching and I thought we really guarded them really well on the switching. I though the post did a good job of handling the guards and the guards did a good job of handling the post, so I was really pleased with that.”
The Irish offensive struggles continued well into the third quarter. The Rams were able to hold the Irish to just two points in the first eight minutes of the third.
The momentum swing came with minutes left in the third when Irish senior forward Kristina Nelson re-entered the game. Nelson went on a roll, ending the long Notre Dame scoring drought and picking up multiple key offensive rebounds. Irish did not look back, increasing their lead to 20.
“I thought Kristina Nelson was player of the game,” McGraw said. “I mean, she made some huge plays for us. Just, just huge. At time when we really needed a basket, she was able to get the offensive rebound and put back. She got us started on our stretch to get it to 20. And then, taking the charge … first in her career, I think, so I was excited about that too.”
Allen echoed her coach’s sentiments, adding that Nelson’s offensive run re-energized her team.
“I think when [Nelson] made that mini-run for us and made those hustle plays, that kind of revved us up a little bit and gave us that energy that we needed,” Allen said. “I thought we were just kind of lethargic at times and I thought that we needed to just get some hustle plays, get some rebounds, kind of get us going. I thought [Nelson] started that out for us and then we just kind of continued it on from there.”
With the win over Fordham, the Irish advance to the WNIT semifinal where they will take on Green Bay at 7 p.m. on Thursday at Purcell Pavilion.