Blue and Gold Illustrated

February 2017

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

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48 FEBRUARY 2017 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED WOMEN'S BASKETBALL BY LOU SOMOGYI N ever take victory for granted, no matter how easy it might have seemed in the past. After a 56-1 record in its three years in the Atlantic Coast Con- ference — 47-1 in the regular season and 9-0 in the postseason — Notre Dame opened year four of league play with a 70-62 loss at North Caro- lina State Dec. 29, ending its 35-game winning streak in the ACC. The loss to the Wolfpack dropped the Fighting Irish from its regular No. 2 perch to No. 7 in the Associated Press poll. Notre Dame then won its next three games — highlighted by a 67-55 win at No. 14 Miami Jan. 8 — to move up to No. 6 in the Jan. 9 AP poll. The program has not been lower than No. 7 since its No. 9 standing at the start of the NCAA Tournament in March 2011, when it began its run of five straight Final Four appearances (four to the championship game). Individually, Notre Dame pos- sesses the talent to return to the Final Four for the sixth time in seven years. Collectively, there is improvement to make by March to achieve that aspi- ration. Among them: • Brianna Turner and her role on offense. Head coach Muffet McGraw is try- ing to find the happy medium be- tween not "forcing" the ball inside to the All-American while also having her be much more assertive in the low post. In the win at Miami, Turner didn't attempt her first shot until 2:35 was left in the first half, and her first bas- ket came at 6:24 of the third quarter. Because the high post isn't Turner's wheelhouse and her offensive reper- toire is relatively limited beyond five feet, the alley-oop pass has become a main scoring staple. Unfortunately, it has also led to an inordinate amount of forced passes to her, resulting in too many turnovers, including a season-high 21 at Miami. It also has led on occasion to some standing around on offense, less flow and more one-on-one basketball. Turner had 31 straight games with double-figure scoring, but she had less than 10 in three of the last four, all on the road (seven in the loss at North Carolina State and at Miami, and nine at Georgia Tech Jan. 2). • Finding "the zone." Disappointed at the end of De- cember with the perimeter defense and confusion on ball screens, Mc- Graw has implemented more two- three zone, and it was particularly effective at Miami, when one of the nation's better three-point shooting teams was limited to 5 of 18 (27.8 percent). On The Rebound A loss in its ACC opener has Notre Dame seeking answers Sophomore guard Marina Mabrey led the 67‑55 win at No. 14 Miami with 15 points, five rebounds, four assists and four steals. PHOTO BY JOE RAYMOND

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