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IRISH EXTRA: Westbeld Making Her Mark with Irish

Freshman forward Kathryn Westbeld has been a strong contributor off the bench for Notre Dame this season, averaging 7.1 points and 4.9 rebounds per game, including a career high-tying 15 points Sunday against Boston College.

Jan. 12, 2015

Instant impact.

That's what freshman forward Kathryn Westbeld brought to the University of Notre Dame women's basketball team when she checked into Sunday's game against Boston College at Purcell Pavilion.

Westbeld checked into the game at the 15:21 mark of the first half with the Fighting Irish owning a 14-7 lead.

At the 14:47 mark Westbeld dished off a pass to Jewell Loyd for a basket.

At the 14:06 mark Westbeld took a pass and immediately lobbed it to Brianna Turner for an alley-oop basket.

After forcing a turnover Westbeld scored on a drive to the hoop at the 13:38 mark.

Two other drives to the hoop resulted in a total of four free throws by Westbeld.

In what turned out to be a 17-6 Irish run in a span of 5:15, Westbeld had her hand in 10 of Notre Dame's points and ignited what ended up being a 41-11 Irish run to close out the first half.

Instant impact.

No. 4 Notre Dame walloped Boston College 104-58. The Irish (15-2 overall, 3-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) head to North Carolina Thursday to play the No. 8 Tar Heels.

Westbeld finished with 15 points. The 6-foot-2-inch native of Kettering, Ohio, hit five of seven shots and was five of five in free-throw shooting.

"She has that kind of ability," Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said of Westbeld. "She has a good scorer's mentality. She can shoot threes, she can post up, she's a really good passer. She's starting to feel a lot more comfortable with the offense.

"We like her when the other team is pressing because she's really good with the ball," McGraw continued. "She works the middle of the floor really well. She's great at the high post. I thought she and Brianna (Turner) played really well, particularly against the zone."

 

 

Irish associate coach Beth Cunningham said Westbeld is a perfect fit for the offense because of her versatility. She said Westbeld has made significant strides as a freshman.

"For Kathryn, the biggest thing has been the learning curve, just getting in our system and getting more comfortable, and I think with every game she gets more comfortable," Cunningham said. "That takes time. We're really pleased with how she has come along. She has a great mentality. She wants to learn and get better. She'll stay after practice and get extra shots up and work on her skill set. I think her versatility has given us a lot, whether we want to play four guards or play the bigs."

Bringing energy and intensity - the things that fuel instant impact - is Westbeld's goal when she checks into the game. But there is so much more to the college game, especially at the level of competition at which Notre Dame plays.

"Coming in as a freshman, having the expectations that Coach McGraw has for us, it's tough," Westbeld said. "Finding my game has been a struggle for me. I think it's coming along. My teammates have been a big help, being patient with me, helping me with where I need to be at different points in the game. It's been a process, but it's coming along. I'm getting more comfortable. Each game is better than the last. I don't want a roller-coaster ride. I want to go up the whole time."

Westbeld has dedicated herself to developing her talents in practice.

"Practice is what forms a player, and that's what's really helped me, getting reps and learning the offense. Seeing my mistakes has really helped me out," Westbeld said. "I think my confidence in myself, getting my head right and being mentally prepared each game is really important."

Against Boston College Westbeld was a nightmare match-up for the Eagles. She scored on power moves to the hoop, she scored on baseline jumpers, she scored on the fast break. Averaging 6.6 points a game, the Irish would like to see more offensive firepower from Westbeld. Her 15 points against Boston College tied her career high set against Holy Cross.

"I think she's very unselfish, which is great. But it will help us, and I think she saw it against Boston College, if she shoots more when she has the right opportunity," Cunningham said. "It's a matter of knowing and understanding the offense, knowing where your reads are. But, absolutely, there are times when she has opportunities to score more and needs to do that."

Westbeld said she needs to develop a strong confidence in her shooting.

"I tend to be a passer and pass up my shot," Westbeld said. "I look for my teammates. That's a good thing, but it can be a bad thing at times. I'm hurting the team, sometimes, when I don't shoot the ball because then other teams will pack in the middle. I'm standing wide open and I'm afraid to shoot the ball. I need to be more confident in myself when I'm open."

Cunningham has no doubts Westbeld will continued to emerge as a key player for the Irish.

"Kathryn is a high IQ kid and has a great skill set," Cunningham said. "She's kind of that tweener. She can absolutely play the post, but she has guard skills as well.

"If we're going to be successful in March, we need Kathryn to play the way she's capable of playing. That's the great thing about Coach McGraw, her ability to get people to peak at the right time and be playing to the best of their ability in tournament time."

When Westbeld made a perfect lob pass to Turner for an alley-oop basket, McGraw marveled.

"When it happens, I think, 'Freshman to freshman. It's going to be a great four years,'" McGraw said.

In Sunday's game, Turner finished with 21 points, Westbeld had 15 and Mychal Johnson scored 13. That means Notre Dame's three freshmen combined to score 49 of the Irish points.

"I think it's one of the best classes we've ever had in terms of the contributions all three of them are making," McGraw said.

Instant impact is what Kathryn Westbeld is delivering for the Irish, and it could lead to a lasting legacy.

-- by Curt Rallo, special correspondent

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