Blue and Gold Illustrated

BGI April 2019

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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44 APRIL 2019 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED WOMEN'S BASKETBALL BY LOU SOMOGYI W illiam Shakespeare is often misquoted with writing "expectation is the root of all heartache." The actual quote was "Oft expectation fails, and most oft there where most it prom‑ ises." Fittingly, that came from his play "All's Well That Ends Well." Notre Dame head basketball coach Muffet McGraw can clearly identify with either statement. Her preseason expectation of her 2018‑19 team was to win every game while repeating as the national cham‑ pion. It was rooted in reality — the Fighting Irish not only returned their four top scorers from last year's 35‑3 outfit, but added two‑time All‑Amer‑ ican forward Brianna Turner, who was sidelined the previous year with an ACL injury. The unbeaten dream ended in game eight versus Connecticut. Okay … then go undefeated in the Atlantic Coast Conference for the third time since joining the league in 2013. Then on Jan. 27, the No. 1‑ranked Irish, minus junior guard Jackie Young (injured), were stunned at unranked North Carolina (78‑73), perhaps the top upset of the season. Okay … now the true wake‑up call arrived. No more slip‑ups. Then on Feb. 7, the Irish were felled 72‑65 at Miami. It was at that point McGraw blamed herself for "letting them be average," and then took out her "whip hand" for the stretch run, while the senior‑dominated squad also took stock and ownership. It was no longer about merely win‑ ning, but regaining the proverbial eye of the tiger and fortifying an un‑ rivaled legacy — with a repeat na‑ tional title as the ultimate goal. It began to show Feb. 10 with a 97‑70 win versus a ranked Florida State squad. "The bench is trying to help us a lot in bringing intensity, but as starters and leaders we've definitely picked it up a little bit," senior All‑American guard Arike Ogunbowale said. McGraw meanwhile remained in a "show me" mode. "The whole key all year is our de‑ fense," McGraw said. "… You can't just come out and play defense on game day. You've got to practice it. "I think they're a little more in tune to it, but we're not good at it because we haven't been doing it all year long." Asked whether the legacy rhetoric from the players served as inspira‑ tion, McGraw remained unfazed. "I hope so because they've really shot themselves in the foot," she said. "They could have really left an in‑ credible legacy — but the first time we've ever had two losses in ACC play is not the legacy they want to leave. "Hopefully, they're ready to build on what we've done." She kept the heat on high while keeping in mind that there is no greater cause for remorse than a missed opportunity or not working to fulfill one's potential. FLOURISHING IN THE STRETCH RUN Following the upset at Miami, the Irish went on a rampage in the fi‑ nal nine games prior to the NCAA Tournament. In the last six regular season con‑ tests, Notre Dame averaged 96.5 points per game (never scoring less than 89) on 53.8 percent shooting (never shooting less than 50.0 per‑ cent). That success derived from excep‑ tional teamwork and ball movement, which produced 153 assists on 228 made field goals (67.1 percent). The Irish also won by an average of 32.5 points per game, with the clos‑ est a 95‑72 victory at a top‑10 North Carolina State team. Three of those wins came against ranked foes. "We're just starting to peak now," said McGraw, following a 103‑66 win versus Virginia in the regular‑sea‑ son finale March 3. "We're in a great place heading into the tournament with the No. 1 seed." More of the same continued at the ACC Tournament March 8‑10 in Greensboro, N.C.: RAMPAGE! The Fighting Irish start reaching peak performance in the final month with regular-season and ACC titles Junior guard Jackie Young was named the MVP after helping the Fighting Irish win their three ACC Tournament games by an average of 21 points en route to their fifth crown in six years. PHOTO COURTESY FIGHTING IRISH MEDIA

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