Nov. 15, 2014
Although she isn’t much for carrying a notecard on the sidelines, University of Notre Dame head women’s basketball coach Muffet McGraw surely was making some mental notes, both during and after Friday’s season-opening 105-51 victory over UMass Lowell at Purcell Pavilion.
Get the win? Check.
Provide her young players, particularly the Fighting Irish freshmen, with experience playing before one of the nation’s loudest and most loyal fan bases, which showed up 8,659 strong despite an early start time and adverse weather conditions? Check.
Play with energy and intensity for 40 minutes? Check.
McGraw was especially encouraged with Notre Dame’s offensive production, as the third-ranked Fighting Irish shot 56.9 percent from the field, including making six of 10 three-point attempts. Notre Dame also handed out 27 assists on its 41 field goals, an efficiency rate of nearly 66 percent.
Freshman forward Brianna Turner was the headliner on Friday, scoring a game-high 29 points in her college debut, connecting on 13 of 18 shots in only 19 minutes of action. Junior All-America guard Jewell Loyd added a superb all-around effort with 20 points (five of six field goals, 10 of 11 free throws), a game-high five assists and five rebounds, also in just 19 minutes.
“I thought we did a really nice job offensively,” McGraw said. “I was really pleased with Jewell Loyd and the way she set the tone. She did a phenomenal job getting to the free-throw line, which is something that we really want her to do. I thought Brianna Turner in her first college game did really well. She took advantage of the size differential inside and was able to really score some points for us. She also ran the floor extremely well.
“I think our post game is something we do really well. Our posts are really good at running the floor. Transitioning on offense is something that we really want to do, and I thought that we did that really well tonight also. We share the ball well – I think we’re pretty unselfish – so offensively I thought there were a lot of good things.
What made Friday’s performance more remarkable was the fact Notre Dame left quite a few points on the table, between 18 turnovers and handful of missed layups. The lack of sharpness by the Fighting Irish in some areas was not entirely unexpected for a season opener, but something that wasn’t lost on Notre Dame’s Hall of Fame coach.
“There were a lot of nerves in the beginning,” McGraw said. “Our turnover goal is 15 and we had 18, so I thought we settled down. We have a few people that got a lot and that was just nerves because three of them were freshmen. That’s just going to get better. The decisions were pretty good, but the passes weren’t as crisp as we expect them to be.”
McGraw also knows the learning curve for this youthful Fighting Irish roster gets steeper next week when Notre Dame plays its first road game of the season, visiting No. 14/15 Michigan State on Wednesday for a 7 p.m. (ET) contest at the Breslin Center in East Lansing, Michigan (televised live on the Big Ten Network).
“Defensively, we’ve got a lot of work to do before Michigan State,” McGraw said. “They’re a great team. They’ve got some veteran players who are really talented, so we’ve got to get a lot better before Wednesday.”
BEYOND THE BOX SCORE: UMASS LOWELL
- Notre Dame earned its 20th consecutive season-opening win and improved to 25-3 (.893) on opening night in the McGraw era, as well as 30-8 (.789) all-time.
- Notre Dame scored 100 points in a season opener for the fourth time in program history and first since Nov. 15, 2009 (a 102-57 win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff at Purcell Pavilion).
- Notre Dame’s 61 first-half points on Friday tied last year’s season high for one half, set in the opening 20 minutes against Syracuse on Feb. 9, 2014, at Purcell Pavilion.
- The Fighting Irish also won their 20th consecutive game against a first-time opponent, rising to 44-3 (.936) against new foes since the start of the 2000-01 season.
- Friday’s 54-point win was Notre Dame’s second-largest margin of victory in a season opener and largest since Nov. 24, 1989, when the Fighting Irish trounced Liberty, 113-35, at the UCF Rotary Classic in Orlando, Florida.
- Notre Dame extended its current home winning streak to 29 games, the second-longest in program history and second-longest active streak in the country (Chattanooga won its 40th consecutive home game Friday night with a 49-45 win over Villanova).
- The Fighting Irish now have won 19 of their last 20 games in the month of November and are 82-14 (.854) in November games since 1995-96.
- Turner shattered the 33-year-old Notre Dame record for points by a freshman in her debut game (22 by Ruth Kaiser vs. St. Joseph’s-Ind. on Dec. 3, 1981), tying Kaiser’s total with 6:17 left in the first half (she rested the remainder of the opening period, then set the record less than 90 seconds into the second half). The highest-scoring freshman debut in the McGraw era had been 18 points, first set by Alicia Ratay at Toledo on Nov. 20, 1999, and matched by Courtney LaVere against Cleveland State on Nov. 26, 2002.
- Turner scored the second-most points by any Notre Dame player (at any grade level) in a season opener, topped only by All-America forward Katryna Gaither’s 31 points at Indiana on Nov. 24, 1995. Gaither made 13 field goals in that 82-73 Fighting Irish win, the last time a Notre Dame player converted 13 baskets in a season opener prior to Turner’s performance on Friday night.
- Turner flirted with the overall Notre Dame freshman single-game scoring record of 33 points, set by Michelle Marciniak at No. RV/24 Georgia in a 90-86 overtime loss on Dec. 8, 1991. The Fighting Irish record for points by a freshman in a regulation game is 32 by Ratay against No. 9/12 North Carolina on Dec. 4, 1999, at the Wachovia Women’s Basketball Invitational in Richmond, Virginia.
- Turner finished one rebound shy of becoming the third freshman in Notre Dame women’s basketball history to record a double-double in her college debut. Shari Matvey was the first to do so with 21 points and 14 rebounds in a 68-60 win over Marion at the Taylor University Invitational on Nov. 30, 1979, in Upland, Indiana. More recently, Lindsay Schrader tipped off her Fighting Irish career with 10 points and 14 rebounds in a 55-45 win over Michigan on Nov. 18, 2005, at Purcell Pavilion.
- Loyd tied her career high with 10 made free throws, having also converted 10 foul shots at Wake Forest on Feb. 20, 2014.
- Loyd posted her 16th career 20-point game and scored in double figures for the 44th consecutive game (the second-longest streak in school history behind Gaither’s 76-game run from 1994-97).
- Senior guard Madison Cable scored in double figures for the 10th time in her career and first since March 22, 2014, when she had 13 points in Notre Dame’s 93-42 NCAA Championship first-round win over Robert Morris at Savage Arena in Toledo, Ohio.
- Junior guard Hannah Huffman scored a career-high eight points on Friday, topping her previous best of seven points at Marquette on Feb. 17, 2013. Huffman’s four field goals and six field goal attempts also were career highs, supplanting her previous bests (three of five) at DePaul on Feb. 24, 2013.
- Along with Turner, Notre Dame freshmen Mychal Johnson (team-high 22 minutes) and Kathryn Westbeld (nine points on three of six shooting) made their college debuts on Friday.
- Several Notre Dame women’s basketball alumnae attended Friday’s game, including All-America posts Ruth Riley (’01), Lindsay Schrader (’10) and Devereaux Peters (’12), as well as standout guards Danielle Green (’00) and Fraderica Miller (’12) and renowned student manager-turned-player Christy Grady (’97). Riley, who is back at Notre Dame beginning work on her executive MBA degree through the top-ranked Mendoza College of Business, served as color analyst with Bob Nagle on the Notre Dame Radio Network broadcast, while Green, a 2004 Purple Heart recipient who now lives in the South Bend area and works with veterans readjusting to life after combat, was on hand as part of the Notre Dame women’s basketball team’s Military Appreciation Night activities.
- Also spotted in the Purcell Pavilion stands on Friday — NBA Hall of Fame center David Robinson, who is on campus this weekend to support his son, Corey, a sophomore wide receiver on the Notre Dame football team, as the Fighting Irish face Northwestern on Saturday afternoon at Notre Dame Stadium.
- During her postgame press conference on Friday, McGraw announced sophomore forward Kristina Nelson will sit out the 2014-15 season to continue her rehabilitation following successful shoulder surgery.
ANOTHER IRISH GAME PICKED UP FOR TV
This week, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Women’s Challenge announced Notre Dame’s game against Kansas on Nov. 30 at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, will be televised live on ESPN3.
It will be the first of at least 10 times the Fighting Irish will play on the ESPN family of networks this season, including six on ESPN3. Notre Dame also now has 27 of its 30 regular-season games scheduled to air on commercial television or free live web streams (either ESPN3 or the official Fighting Irish athletics multimedia platform, WatchND), with only road games at Miami (Jan. 8), Clemson (Jan. 24) and Boston College (Feb. 8) currently not slated for television.
After the largely successful debut of Notre Dame’s enhanced athletics parking plans during Friday’s women’s basketball game against UMass Lowell (as well as five other on-campus athletics events), a similar strategy likely will be in place on Nov. 21 when the Fighting Irish women’s basketball team plays host to Chattanooga at 5 p.m. (ET) at Purcell Pavilion.
In addition to the women’s basketball game, Notre Dame also will play host to a football pep rally (5:45 p.m. ET; site to be announced), volleyball match (7 p.m. ET vs. North Carolina at Purcell Pavilion) and hockey game (7:35 p.m. ET vs. UMass Lowell at the Compton Family Ice Arena) that evening.
Fans should check UND.com/parking for the latest information on available parking lots and procedures (including shuttle bus routes from surrounding lots to Gates 4 and 8 at Purcell Pavilion), as well as a printable map indicating the location of these additional parking areas.
FOLLOWING THE FIGHTING IRISH
For more information on the Notre Dame women’s basketball program, sign up to follow the Fighting Irish women’s basketball Twitter pages (@NDsidMasters or @ndwbb), like the program on Facebook (facebook.com/ndwbb) or register for the Irish ALERT text-messaging system through the “Fan Center” pulldown menu on the front page at UND.com.
— Chris Masters, Associate Athletic Media Relations Director