Blue and Gold Illustrated

January 2020

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

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48 JANUARY 2020 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED WOMEN'S BASKETBALL BY LOU SOMOGYI I t was like old times — almost. In the final game of its 12-game non-conference schedule Dec. 11, Notre Dame had an onslaught on offense reminiscent of this past de- cade that featured seven Final Four berths in nine years. Unfortunately, it was not enough against the nation's No. 4 scoring and No. 2 three-point shooting team, with the No. 16-ranked DePaul Blue Demons recording a 105-94 victory at Purcell Pavilion to drop Notre Dame to 5-7. The Blue Demons scorched the nets with 16-of-29 shooting from three-point range (compared to 4 of 8 by Notre Dame) to overcome a superb effort on offense by Notre Dame freshmen Sam Brunelle and Anaya Peoples. Brunelle, a forward, had a career-high 31 points on 13- of-18 shooting from the field despite coming off a knee injury three days earlier in an 81-57 loss at Connecti- cut. Peoples recorded career highs in points (22 on 11-of-15 shooting from the field) and rebounds (15), for her second straight double-double. Notre Dame went into the half- time intermission clinging to a 53-51 lead, with graduate student Marta Sniezek's 10 assists (she finished with 12) propelling the offense in the up-tempo contest. The Irish shot 61.1 percent in the first 20 minutes, and 34 of the 53 points came in the paint. The fast pace continued through the third quarter, and this time the Blue Demons converted 6 of 9 be- yond the arc during those 10 minutes to build an 81-76 advantage. Notre Dame briefly tied the score at 81, but could never get back on top again. Back-to-back baskets by Brunelle cut the lead to 89-88, and the Irish had a chance to take the lead before a Katlyn Gilbert shot was blocked and a Lexi Heid three on the other end provided DePaul with a 92-88 cushion. DePaul entered the game aver- aging 86.8 points per game, fourth nationally, but Fighting Irish head coach Muffet McGraw harped on a theme that was pervasive even dur- ing the glory days of not so long ago when the Irish possessed the fire- power to defeat most anyone. "Defense is a mindset, a pride thing," McGraw said. "You have to want to defend. We may have one or two — I'm not sure we have enough people [with pride on defense]. … You can see why we play zone. We're not good guarding the ball." Another common talking point from this year also occurred where the Irish fought to the wire, but could not finish, often a sign of in- experience. With a healthy junior Mikayla Vaughn (knee sprain in the Nov. 5 opener) in the post and sophomore guard Abby Prohaska (pulmonary embolism) to lend some badly needed depth, it's not out of the question that this team could have been more in the 8-4 range than 5-7, and then at least entered the confer- ence season more upbeat. The two freshmen have comported themselves superbly on and off the court, and it will be imperative for McGraw to keep their spirits up. The same with sophomore guard Gilbert — medically redshirted last year but who has tallied double figures in all 12 games to lead the team in scoring with a 15.0 average (Brunelle and Peoples are both at 14.5) — because that is the nucleus upon which to build. "We stuck with them the majority of the game," a despondent Brunelle said after the loss to DePaul. "We get down to the stretch, and then get mentally and physically fatigued. We need to find a way to hop over the hump. "We're young and learning. We'll put it together soon enough." STATE OF THE UNION For the first time since Dec. 7, 2003, McGraw's Irish found themselves under .500 (5-6) after losing at home to Minnesota (75-67) Dec. 4 and then at traditional superpower UConn (81-57) four days later. This came two years after captur- ing another national title — also just like in 2003. After rallying from an 18-point deficit (33-15) versus Minnesota, Notre Dame took a 59-58 lead early in the fourth quarter before allowing the Golden Gophers to score on nine straight possessions and go on a 17-4 run to move ahead 75-63. "We cannot remember who we're supposed to guard," an exasperated McGraw said afterwards. "Really disappointed in just the overall lack of awareness of where the shooters were. We completely stopped play- ing defense after we took the lead." Brunelle led four Irish players in double figures with 19 points on 9-of- Medically redshirted last season, sophomore guard Katlyn Gilbert has tallied double figures in each of the first 12 contests to lead the team in scoring with an average of 15.0 points per game. PHOTO BY MIKE MILLER Uncharted Waters Notre Dame enters ACC play with a 5-7 record and a three-game losing streak

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