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ND Women’s Basketball

Irish look to bounce back at home against MSU

| Thursday, November 14, 2019

Despite forcing 28 turnovers, Notre Dame suffered their first loss of the season against Tennessee in their most recent game this past Monday night. Graduate transfer and former North Carolina guard Destinee Walker led the Irish in scoring with 18 points, while freshman Sam Brunelle and sophomore Katlyn Gilbert contributed 16 and 12 points respectively. The size of the Lady Vols (3-0) ultimately proved to be too much for the Irish’s (2-1) guard-heavy and youthful lineup, as the visitors scored 26 points in the paint. Tennessee also dominated the Irish on the glass, as Notre Dame was outrebounded 55-28.

An early season loss like this is uncharacteristic of Notre Dame, as the Irish had a 49-game win streak in November dating back nine years up until Monday’s loss. Furthermore, it was the first home loss to a team not named UConn in 114 games, as Notre Dame was 110-3 in such games before Tennessee’s victory.

Junya Kanemitsu | The Observer
Irish freshman guard Anya Peoples drives to the net during Notre Dame’s 80-64 win over Loyola at Purcell Pavilion on Nov. 8. Peoples has averaged 29 minutes per game in her first season.

Out of 13 roster spots, Irish head coach Muffet McGraw’s squad is made up of eight underclassmen, and after losing the entire starting five from last year’s team, bumps in the road like this one were expected.

During the post-game press conference, Walker spoke on behalf of what it’s like having someone like assistant coach Michaela Mabrey on the bench during the games.

“She’s been great. She’s been a great role model, she talks to us on the side and tells us little nit-bits that we need to do better in the game,” Walker said of the newest addition to the coaching staff. “She’s been a great voice on the side because, you know, she’s been there and she plays currently in the WNBA so she knows what we need to do better overall, and it’s great having that extra voice.”

Walker has come on strong for the Irish so far this season, averaging 15.7 points per game to go along with six rebounds per contest. She will be someone McGraw and the rest of the Irish staff expect to perform at a high level while also providing the younger players with much needed on-floor coaching and tips. Her experience will be invaluable for this squad as the season progresses.

Thus, Notre Dame has faced its first test of the season, some might say earlier than expected, but it’s games like these that are going to help this young Irish team grow and develop.

Next, the Irish have a matchup with No. 16 Michigan State for the third game of their four-game home stand on Thursday night. This year, the Spartans are off to a 2-0 start, dominating both Eastern Michigan and Detroit Mercy en route to blowout victories.

Redshirt junior guard Shay Colley has led the way thus far for the Spartans, averaging a team-high 14.1 points and adding 5.3 rebounds a game. Colley also should be coming into this game with a bit of a chip on her shoulder, as the last time these two teams played came in the second round of the NCAA tournament last season. Colley shot just 2-15 from the field in the Spartans 91-63 loss.

Other notable contributors for Michigan State this season have been senior Jenna Allen and freshman Nia Clouden. Allen is averaging 12.5 points and 6.5 rebounds per game while Clouden has put together a stat line of 12 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. Allen has also been impressive in the paint. Her 23 total blocks are second on the team only to sophomore forward Sidney Cooks. Clouden also scored a career-high 28 points against the Irish back in the 2017 season, and will undoubtedly be looking for more in this upcoming contest.

Irish freshman standout Brunelle has gotten significant playing time at the start of this season and has been a key player on offense. She is averaging 14 points and 6 rebounds per game. While Brunelle has struggled from beyond the arc this season and had a difficult shooting night against Tennessee, she is a highly-touted player who is expected to have a major role at Notre Dame this season and for the foreseeable future.

“I think she’s putting a lot [of pressure] on herself, and, you know, she’s getting great shots, and they’re going to drop so I’m not worried about her at all,” McGraw said with regards to Brunelle.

This upcoming top-25 battle against the Spartans will prove to be another test for this young Irish team. Tip-off is set for 8 p.m. inside Purcell Pavilion, and the game will be broadcast live on the ACC Network.

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