ND Women’s Basketball
Greason: Notre Dame picked the wrong game to have an off-day
Elizabeth Greason | Thursday, December 8, 2016
A rankings flip-flop between formerly No. 1 Notre Dame and No. 2 Connecticut on Monday left many surprised and confused. It marked the first time in over a decade the top-ranked team was jumped without a loss and Wednesday’s matchup between No. 1 UConn (8-0) and No. 2 Notre Dame (8-1) was supposed to decide which of the two was actually the best in the country.
And while the Huskies will maintain their top ranking after stretching their winning streak to 83, they will not do so after beating the second-best team in the nation. They may have taken down the second-ranked team, but they certainly did not see Notre Dame’s best. They did not see the skill and prowess that put the Irish at the top. While Notre Dame has absolutely earned its ranking, it did not put up its best fight against the Huskies. This game did not affirm that UConn is the best team in the country right now, it simply solidified the Huskies’ ranking.
I fully believe Notre Dame is one of the two best teams in the country at the moment. But the Huskies were playing the shell of the full-bodied, vibrant Irish team that could have and should have stepped onto the court. While Notre Dame can play like one of the top two teams in the country on a regular basis, it did not Wednesday.
There were bright spots in the game, without a doubt.
The Irish scored 15 points off the bench, compared to UConn’s four.
Freshman guard Jackie Young came off the bench to spark multiple runs with her four steals.
Junior forward Brianna Turner scored 16 points and snagged 12 rebounds despite a complete offensive breakdown.
And there were bad breaks in the game, without a doubt.
Young injured her ankle and was forced to leave the game with three minutes left.
Notre Dame had just eight attempts at the free-throw line, compared to UConn’s 20, which was arguably due to some the officiating.
But, Notre Dame converted on just four of those eight free throw chances, while the Huskies made all but one.
More than anything, however, there was poor play on the part of the Irish throughout the game.
Losing is no fun. But it’s even worse when it comes as a result of failing to perform at the level of which you are capable. When the second-ranked team in the country fails to make a single 3-point shot until the second quarter, the loss is going to sting a little bit more. Because if those two teams had faced each other on Notre Dame’s best day, or even a slightly better one, the storyline of the game — particularly the second half — would have been totally different and the outcome could have been turned upside down.
Everyone has off days; it’s just unfortunate that Notre Dame’s off day came on the most anticipated matchup of the season.
While UConn’s defense was strong, it was not outstanding. It did not do anything special that threw the Irish for a loop. They simply could not get a shot to drop in the first quarter, causing them to rush their offensive sets, which exacerbated the problem. This issue carried over throughout most of the game, with the exception of the second quarter.
The offense was inefficient and incapable of scoring. It repeatedly failed to get the ball inside to Turner. Sophomore guard Marina Mabrey, who had an explosive showing against the Huskies last season, failed to pick up a single point until she scored the final points of the game. Mabrey is supposed to be a perennial offensive powerhouse, but she wasn’t Wednesday. Sophomore guard Arike Ogunbowale is used making layups effortlessly, no matter how many people she has to drive through to get to the basket. But she could not get a single one to drop, scoring only nine points. The second best team in the country does not wait until over halfway through the third quarter to score its first points of the second half.
While senior guard Lindsay Allen took responsibility for the lack of offensive production after the game, the fact of the matter is that the team as a whole did not play well. The mental factor of the Irish facing off against UConn cannot be overlooked and it probably played a role in Notre Dame’s slow start to both halves and its inability to slow the UConn offense, especially in the paint and in transition. But more than anything, it was just not Notre Dame’s day.
We saw glimpses of the Irish team the country was expecting to step onto the court. There were moments when the offense ran flawlessly. There were plays that made everyone in Purcell Pavilion believe they were watching the top two teams in the nation. But overall, we were not watching a top-two matchup. We were watching the two best teams in the country, one of whom grew increasingly frustrated with itself. UConn did not stop Notre Dame. Notre Dame stifled itself.
Notre Dame absolutely deserves to be one of the top two teams in the country. It was simply the wrong day to have an off day.