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ND Women’s Basketball

Notre Dame falls to UConn after second-half stumble

| Thursday, December 8, 2016

No. 2 Notre Dame was stuck playing catch-up to No. 1 Connecticut all night Wednesday, falling behind from the outset, then fighting back, then allowing the Huskies to widen the margin again.

A final surge never materialized, and the Irish (8-1) lost 72-61 at a packed Purcell Pavilion to cement UConn’s spot at the top of the rankings.

“Just really disappointed in pretty much everything: execution, ability to get the ball to [junior forward Brianna Turner], just completely ineffective offensively,” Irish head coach Muffet McGraw said. “ … I’m surprised. I really didn’t expect that. We’ve got some things to work on.”

It wasn’t the first time the Notre Dame was left behind by the Huskies (8-0), who now have 83 wins in a row and six consecutive wins against the Irish. The last time Notre Dame defeated Geno Auriemma’s squad was in the Big East Championship in 2013.

However, McGraw said it wasn’t the recent history behind the matchup that was most disheartening, but rather the fact that Notre Dame failed to meet its usual standards on Wednesday.

Irish sophomore guard Marina Mabrey attempts to dribble by a UConn defender in Notre Dame's loss to the Huskies on Wednesday at Purcell Pavilion.Allison Culver | The Observer
Irish sophomore guard Marina Mabrey attempts to dribble by a UConn defender in Notre Dame’s loss to the Huskies on Wednesday at Purcell Pavilion.

“We’re just frustrated that we didn’t play well,” McGraw said. “We didn’t go down swinging. Let’s play our game, and if we lose 72-71 on a buzzer beater, it’s a great game and we did a lot of good things. But we can’t feel good about the way we played, and that’s where the frustration is.”

The Huskies jumped out to an immediate 11-2 lead in the monumental matchup, staying safely in front for the first quarter before Notre Dame came out for its best quarter of the night by far. The team opened the second with a quick 8-0 run, and by the time halftime rolled around, the Irish had tied the game at 34.

Notre Dame limited UConn to less than 30 percent shooting in that quarter and outscored the Huskies 20-11 on the back of a particularly strong performance by sophomore guard Arike Ogunbowale.

However, the Irish returned to the court for the second half in the same rut they started in. Nearly six minutes ticked by without a single Irish point, until freshman guard Jackie Young sunk a layup.

One of the few Irish players to be seeing the Huskies for the first time, Young scored seven points with four rebounds and four steals before exiting the game late with an ankle injury.

McGraw praised Young and the rest of her bench, which contributed 15 points for the Irish. UConn’s bench scored only four.

Young’s layup triggered another 8-0 Irish run, and the score was even at 42 with 1:56 left in the third quarter. From that point on, though, the Huskies buckled down and began to run away with it.

A double-double from Turner and 11 points from star senior guard Lindsay Allen proved insufficient to compete with the UConn trio of sophomore guard Katie Lou Samuelson, sophomore forward Napheesa Collier and junior forward Gabby Williams, who scored 18, 19 and 20 points, respectively.

Those totals reflect how Notre Dame was thrown off its ideal defensive strategy, McGraw said.

“It’s not our intention to play one-on-one. That was our problem,” McGraw said. “It was our intention to share the ball, and I think our frustration showed early, and it turned into one-on-one with our wings. That was another source of disappointment for us.”

Notre Dame averaged about 39 percent shooting in the second half, and McGraw said shot selection was a major issue throughout the whole game.

“We were so anxious to shoot it that we just let it go, and just made really, really poor decisions,” McGraw said. “I think it’s all about ‘I’ve gotta score, and I want to do it soon.’ I think we’re impatient. I think our younger players are impatient. I don’t think you see that from Lindsay and Bri, but you see it from the young ones. Their job is to score, and they were just trying a little too hard.”

The Irish do not have much time to recover before a tough matchup with No. 16 DePaul — which lost to the Huskies last week — on Saturday. The Irish will play ten games between now and the start of the spring semester, including five against ACC opponents.

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About Renee Griffin

Notre Dame senior, formerly of Farley Hall. Originally from Lake Zurich, IL, majoring in American Studies with a minor in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. Enjoys talkin' about practice.

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