Dec. 13, 2014
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) – The Notre Dame women’s basketball team took a social stand in pregame warmups, wearing “I Can’t Breathe” shirts before cruising to a 70-50 victory Saturday over Michigan.
Notre Dame shot 52 percent against the Wolverines, held them to 35 percent and outscored them 48-24 in the paint.
“I felt we ran the offense better,” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. “I thought we did less relying on Jewell. We got a lot of other people involved. We got a lot of other people touches, especially on the inside.”
But the Irish couldn’t shake the Wolverines until they used a 13-4 run in the second half to open an 18-point lead. The Irish pulled away, extending the lead to 68-45 on a layup by Kathryn Westbeld, who finished with 13 points and eight rebounds.
Cyesha Goree led Michigan (6-3) with 17 points and 11 rebounds.
The Irish players said they wore the shirts to support the family of Eric Garner, who died in July after a New York police officer placed him in a chokehold while trying to arrest him. Last week, a grand jury decided not to indict the officer, sparking nationwide protests.
Forward Taya Reimer said the team came up with the idea after Notre Dame students conducted a die-in protest on campus this week. The players got the OK from their coach and the university to wear the shirts.
“A few of us talked about it and we thought wearing these shirts for the game would be a cool way to show our support and give our condolences to families that have lost someone,” she said.
Reimer said she the players decided to wear the shirts because “it’s an issue we’re all passionate about.”
“It’s not an anti-law enforcement, anti-anything message,” she said. “It’s just showing condolence for the family, just supporting them.”
McGraw was pleased the players took a stand, saying her staff dressed in black to show their support.
“I was really proud of our team, especially Taya, to publicly stand for something you believe in. I think one of the things I try to teach them is you’ve got to fight. You’ve got to fight for playing time. You’ve got to fight to win a national championship. You have to be willing to stand up and fight and you have to be accountable.”
Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said he was proud of the players.
“They are students first and you want students at a university to be passionate about things, to be engaged in conversations about social issues,” he said. “If there’s anything I worry it’s that our kids get too focused on the athletic side of it and don’t do enough of the other things.”
He said the university checked with the NCAA to make sure wearing the shirts, which the players had made and paid for themselves, didn’t violate any rules.
McGraw has a photo hanging in her office of the Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, the former school president, standing with Martin Luther King Jr. during a 1964 civil rights rally in Chicago.
“I want to have strong, confident women who are not afraid to use their voice and take a stand,” she said.
Notre Dame beat the Wolverines for the fifth time in their last six meetings and improved to 11-7 all-time against Michigan. The Irish are 8-1 against Michigan at Purcell Pavilion.
Michigan lost consecutive non-conference games for the first time since coach Barnes Arico took over to start the 2012-13 season. The Wolverines fell to 0-28 all-time against teams ranked in the top five.
Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico was pleased with her team’s effort.
“Notre Dame’s an outstanding team,” she said. “I know they’re coming off a tough game the other night, so we were kind of hoping to get them maybe a little tired. I thought we gave a great battle. We didn’t get a lot of shots to fall.”
Katelynn Flaherty, who leads the Wolverines in scoring at 14.4 points a game, was 1-11 shooting and finished with three points.
Notre Dame forward Brianna Turner, the second-leading scorer for the Irish at 13.4 points a game, missed her third straight game with a dislocated right shoulder. McGraw said she hopes to have Turner back in time for the start of Atlantic Coast Conference play next month.
Notre Dame: Hosts Saint Joseph’s of Pennsylvania, McGraw’s alma mater, on Dec. 21.
Michigan: Plays Canisius at home on Friday.