Blue and Gold Illustrated

February 2020

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

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40 FEBRUARY 2020 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED WOMEN'S BASKETBALL BY LOU SOMOGYI T here were the sounds of a con- cession speech from Notre Dame's Naismith Hall of Fame head coach Muffet McGraw following Notre Dame's 71-55 loss to Clemson Dec. 29 to open the ACC season. Not only did the demoralizing setback to a 4-8 unit that had lost at home to North Carolina A&T the previous game drop Notre Dame's record to 5-8, it ended a 58-game winning streak at home against con- ference opponents that dated back to 2012 and its days in the Big East. Rock bottom seemed like it was several flights up. The Irish fell behind by as much as 28 points (53-25 in the third quarter) and finished a woeful 20 of 64 from the field (31.3 percent). They also com- mitted 20 turnovers against the Tigers' zone that had them flummoxed. Notre Dame didn't convert a three- pointer until the fourth quarter and finished 2 of 17 behind the arc (11.8 percent). The inability to play a full lineup again while trying to rotate six players who originally enrolled on scholarship exacerbated the immense frustration. Just when junior center Mikki Vaughn returned to the lineup for the first time since suffering a knee sprain in the season opener at Ford- ham Nov. 5, fifth-year senior point guard Marta Sniezek, the glue of the team on offense and defense, was sidelined with plantar fasciitis. "I think it's going to take another year," admitted McGraw in what came across as a concession speech of a lost 2019-20 season while looking ahead to enrolling five scholarship players who signed for the 2020-21 campaign. "We've got to have a go- to player and we don't have one. … We just stood around and shot threes and didn't make any of them. Ev- ery time out we talked about [in the huddle], 'We're not shooting threes, we're trying to run the offense' — we forgot the offense. "We were in the wrong place the entire first half, we were paralyzed and couldn't run the offense … it's really getting discouraging that we're just not making that next step. We're going to struggle through the rest of the year." The graduation of four senior starters, the early departure of junior Jackie Young to the WNBA as the No. 1 overall pick, the transfer of four players since 2017, a medical setback to sophomore guard Abby Prohaska (pulmonary embolism) and injuries this year to Vaughn and now Sniezek have ravaged the roster. Still, McGraw said the absence of Sniezek is not what hurt the Irish most against the Tigers. "It would have been good to have an extra sub because a couple of peo- ple didn't come to play … Clemson just played really well," McGraw said. "We hung our heads and didn't do anything else. Instead of saying, 'I can rebound or I can defend or I can get assists,' we just hung our heads. And that's incredibly disappointing and unacceptable. "Normally we have a little bit of fight. We didn't have the fight today. … We got the ball and we panicked. We didn't throw it where it was sup- posed to go. And they were aggres- sive and big." It had been McGraw's opinion that to have a shot at making the NCAA Tournament this year, the Irish needed to finish at least 12-6 in the ACC, and win a game in the ACC Tournament to get to 18-14 overall. The devastating loss to Clemson, experiencing its own struggles, made such aspirations look like a pipe dream. "We've got to win more games," McGraw summarized of picking up the pieces. "That's all. There are no moral victories. There are no, 'We played well and lost.' We've got to win games." Junior center Mikki Vaughn returned to the lineup for the first time since suffering a knee sprain in the season opener at Fordham Nov. 5 in a 71-55 home loss to Clemson Dec. 29, and contributed eight points, four steals and two rebounds. PHOTO BY MIKE MILLER/FIGHTING IRISH MEDIA Paradise Lost Notre Dame drops to 5-8 after falling in league opener to Clemson

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