ND Women’s Basketball
Irish return home to face Minnesota after weekend in Mexico
Jimmy Ward | Wednesday, December 4, 2019
The Notre Dame women’s basketball team returns home this week from an eventful Thanksgiving break in Cancun to take on Minnesota in the 2019 ACC/BIG Ten Challenge. The Irish (5-4) dropped two games in the course of three days in Cancun this weekend. The Irish would lose narrowly to Florida Gulf Coast 69-60 and to South Dakota State 65-59. However, they would find a win in their last game of the tournament on Sunday against University of South Florida 67-51.
The first game back after a nice ‘vacation’ of sorts, will not be a game the Irish will want to walk into unprepared. The Gophers (5-1) are on a five-game win streak in which they showed no mercy to their opponents. After taking their first and only loss of the season at their home opener a month ago to Missouri State, the Gophers have played strong basketball since — albeit all of those games were played in their home arena, and their game against the Irish on Wednesday will be their first road game this season. After their loss to the Bears, the Gophers defeated Vermont in a blowout 90-58, Milwaukee in well contested game 77-61 and Arizona State in another blowout 80-66. The Montana State Bobcats, who put up a good fight against the Gophers in comparison to the other teams they have faced off against this year, ultimately fell in Minneapolis 71-60. And Bryant University also succumbed to the Gophers by a score of 101-56. That has been the Gophers season so far.
The Irish however, have gotten off to a slower start, winning their first two games of the season against Fordham and Loyola Maryland in their home opener but dropping just their third game of the season to the now 7-0 Tennessee Lady Volunteers. The women would go on to lose another game against Michigan State at Purcell Pavilion, but they came back with a two-game win streak, notching wins against Toledo at home and Michigan in Ann Arbor, a nail biter. This weekend in Cancun the Irish dropped two games and won one, but they are definitely looking for more wins to get under their belt as they come into their matchup Wednesday against the Gophers.
While the Gophers will be looking to push their win streak to six games, the Irish will be looking to crack that streak and assert their dominance in the neighboring conference.
Irish head coach Muffet McGraw spoke on the three games in Mexico during the Muffet McGraw show hosted by Bob Nagle on Monday night, specifically about their win over USF, which was ranked No. 21 in the country heading into the tournament.
“It’s just so good to see improvement — that is the biggest thing,” McGraw said. “You go into three games in three days, the last game you’re going to really look tired. I thought that we looked in better shape than they [USF] did. We finally looked like we were playing much better basketball. Defensively we did a lot of really good things, we were able to play a lot of zone in that game as well. I think we’re getting better as a team, and that’s all we’re really looking for heading into a tough stretch here with a bunch of ranked teams and then we go on to the ACC so for us it’s just getting better, trying to keep our heads above water.”
The Irish roster is relatively young and their clear leader is a graduate transfer from Stanford, point guard Marta Sniezek. Sniezek is not a heavy scorer putting up double digit points every game, but she does dish the ball out well, leading the team with 44 assists this year, tied for 13th most in the nation. Sniezek is an unlikely leader for the Irish, coming in as a transfer; nevertheless, she has played with a hard nosed mentality for the Irish, snagging 16 steals on the season as well, the third most on the team. She also racked up a whopping eight charges in Mexico just this weekend. McGraw spoke on the pride she has for the graduate point guard.
“It’s tough for the point guards, they have to think for everybody on the floor and with this group it is a lot of thinking,” McGraw said.
But Sniezek said her biggest obstacle thus far has been staying resilient.
“Staying resilient, it’s a new team, new players, I’m dealing with the same things that they are,” Sniezek said. “So I try to help everyone stay calm and poised and help everyone get to where we need to be in March.”
The matchup against the Gophers will take place in South Bend at Purcell Pavilion with tipoff set for 8 p.m.