Blue and Gold Illustrated

March 2020

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

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76 MARCH 2020 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED WOMEN'S BASKETBALL BY LOU SOMOGYI T he grieving stages, per famed psychiatrist/author Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, involve five steps known as DABDA: denial, an- ger, bargaining, depression and, fi- nally, acceptance. While a basketball defeat is incom- prehensibly minute compared to los- ing a loved one or facing one's own mortality, the 2019-20 Notre Dame women's basketball team has been a case study of gradually experiencing these five stages while staggering to a 10-14 record (5-7 in the ACC) after having been one of the top three pro- grams in the nation from 2010-19. There was the initial denial that los- ing an entire NCAA-record-breaking starting lineup, plus two transfers and three major injuries, would not set the program too far back — and maybe it will be fun to sneak up on people. Then there was stage two — anger — after the reality of the reconstruc- tion project was demonstrated during a 6-10 start that included double-digit losses at home to past ACC bottom- feeders such as Clemson and Boston College, teams Notre Dame regularly crushed by at least 30 points. The stage three bargaining was not occurring either after standout freshman guard Anaya Peoples — the team's best defender who also was averaging a team-high 8.1 re- bounds to go with 12.6 points per game — was lost for the year in mid- January with a torn right shoulder labrum that required shoulder (she had already played too many games to qualify for a medical redshirt). The stage four sadness/depression came to a head during a 90-56 home defeat to NC State Jan. 12 in an emo- tion-laden post-game conference. "I've got to do better," head coach Muffet McGraw said as she com- posed herself through tears. "I feel like I can fix it but I didn't. I'm going to keep trying, I'm going to find an answer and I'm going to fix it." The month ended with two more blowout defeats — 90-60 at a then 7-12 Virginia team and 86-54 at home versus Louisville. It was right around then that stage five acceptance set in. It wasn't about accepting losing, but more so about moving forward via baby steps rather than continuing to wallow in depression. A three-game winning streak to be- gin February, with victories at Georgia Tech (59-51) and Wake Forest (75-71) followed by a home rout of last-place Pittsburgh (74-52), provided salve. In the remaining six regular-season games, each foe ranks ahead of Notre Dame in the ACC standings, but at least now the Irish are no longer sad- dled by unrealistic expectations. "That's a good place for us to be," McGraw said after the Pitt game. "We don't have to worry about what's going on in the standings or anything like that. We just have to go in and play our game and kind of loosen up a little bit. "We looked a little bit looser — not including me, but the rest of them." SHARING PENTHOUSE TO OUTHOUSE STORIES Misery in the sports world appar- ently does gravitate toward company. For North Carolina men's basket- ball coach Roy Williams and Notre Dame's McGraw, a bond has been forged this season that prompted Wil- liams to call McGraw this January. Both are multiple national title winners — most recently Williams in 2017 and McGraw in 2018 — who have been enshrined into the Nai- smith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. As of Feb. 10, Williams was 881-246 (.782 winning percentage) in his 32-year career while McGraw was 845-248 (.773) in 33 seasons at Notre Dame, with 933 victories overall. However, this season has seen Wil- liams lose a school-record six straight ACC games (10-13 overall). What's more, the Tar Heels had been 59-0 at home against Clemson since their series began in 1926 — until losing in overtime to the Tigers Jan. 11. Similar to McGraw, the 69-year-old Freshman forward Sam Brunelle was averaging 13.6 points and 6.0 rebounds per game through Feb. 10, and will be a mainstay in the lineup for the next three years. PHOTO BY MIKE MILLER STAGE SETTING Notre Dame loosening into acceptance role — at least for 2019-20

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