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ND Women’s Basketball

Irish blown out by No. 4 UConn in rivalry matchup

| Monday, December 9, 2019

For a Notre Dame women’s basketball team that has faced a significant deal of adversity this season, Sunday afternoon’s rivalry matchup against No. 4 UConn proved too much to handle. The Irish (5-6, 0-0 ACC) fell behind early to the Huskies (8-0, 1-0 ACC), who outscored Notre Dame 29-13 in the first quarter, and the deficit proved too large to overcome on the road.

Notre Dame started 0-for-6 from the field at Gampel Pavilion on Sunday, and those unsuccessful efforts paved the way for the Huskies to establish a 12-2 lead in the first few minutes of play. Led by graduate student guard Marta Sniezek, the Irish would eventually mount a bit of a comeback, but in the final minutes of the period, UConn regained the momentum to head into the second quarter with a 16-point lead.

The second quarter proved no better for the Irish, who struggled to grasp momentum for most of the first half. Committing six turnovers in the last five minutes of the quarter, Notre Dame allowed UConn to go on a 14-2 run and head into the locker room at half with a monstrous 50-25 lead, which all but sealed the victory for the Huskies, whose high-tempo efforts boosted them to a number of big scoring sprees in the first half.

Isabel Patacsil | The Observer

Irish graduate student guard Marta Sniezek dribbles toward the paint during Notre Dame’s 72-69 loss to Michigan State on Nov. 14 at Purcell Pavilion.

Irish head coach Muffet McGraw and company would actually bounce back in the second half, gaining a bit of momentum and tempo on offense to keep the Huskies on their toes. But even with these increased efforts, UConn outscored the Irish in the third period 17-14, and they would go on to claim a decisive 81-57 victory over a young Notre Dame squad.

Despite the tough loss, Sniezek managed to record 14 points, a career-high for the grad student. Sophomore guard Katlyn Gilbert maintained and extended her streak of double-digit points scored to 11 games. Freshman guard Anaya Peoples tallied her first career double-double, scoring 17 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. People, Gilbert and Sniezek led the offensive efforts for the Irish on the afternoon, combining for 46 of the team’s 57 total points.

After the game McGraw said that, all in all, the loss was a good learning experience for her young squad.

“It’s a great learning experience, I think, for all of them, particularly the freshmen,” she said. “It’s about continuing to battle, and I think we did. It’s about the little things that we can do better at practice. … There’s so many little things that we can control, and that’s what we always talk about.  You can’t control the ball going in the basket, you can control rebounding, setting screens, using screens, things like that. So, control the fundamentals, control the things you can and try to get in the gym and shoot more.”

Moving forward, McGraw said she thinks the team can definitely get better, and finding ways to score will be an emphasis for the rest of the season.

“We need some help, we need some experience, so we’ll see what that brings,” she said. “I think we can get a lot better, we just have to figure out how we’re going to score.  Because we’re not great defensively.  We thought we knew going into the season we were going to be able to score, so we worked a lot on our defense, and we haven’t been able to play great defense, and we’re limited a little bit because of our numbers.  We’re playing a lot of zone.  I think we can get a lot better.”

The Irish hope to avoid a third-straight loss when they return home to face No. 16 DePaul on Wednesday at Purcell Pavilion. Tip off is set for 6:30 p.m.

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