Jan. 18, 2017
By Leigh Torbin
The No. 6/9 Notre Dame women’s basketball team (16-3, 4-1 ACC) continues its road trek as it heads to Boston College for a 7 p.m. tilt on Thursday night at Conte Forum. There is light at the end of the tunnel for the Irish who play the penultimate contest of a stretch where 10 of 12 games have been played on the road. After Sunday’s matinee at North Carolina. Notre Dame will play four of its next five games at Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center and six out of the nine games to close out the regular season.
The team returned to campus for classes on Tuesday and Wednesday after suffering a 71-69 upset loss on Monday night at Tennessee. Notre Dame’s Karen and Kevin Keyes Family Head Women’s Basketball Coach Muffet McGraw hopes to draw some positives from the disappointing evening in Knoxville.
“The thing about losing is you learn a lot more than you do from winning,” she said. “You learn new things and we can focus on those and get better…I think it’s always good to be in a close game to see what happens, how we are going to guard, how we are going to score. There’s a lot of things down the stretch that we can learn from. It was definitely a great teaching game.”
Here are some things to know before the Irish try to show what they have learned on the Eagles’ home floor.
About the Eagles
Boston College stands at 8-10 on the season and 1-4 in ACC play heading into Thursday’s contest at Conte Forum where the Eagles have claimed six of their eight victories. Boston College’s lone ACC win came at home on Jan. 2 when they took down Clemson, 60-48. Mariella Fasoula has been BC’s top scorer this season with a 16.2 points per game average while also topping the Eagles with 7.4 rebounds per game and 19 blocked shots. Kelly Hughes is the only other Eagle with a double-figure scoring average, putting in 12.7 points per game. Erik Johnson is in his fourth season at the helm of the Eagles.
Notre Dame leads the all-time series between the “Power 5’s” only two Catholic schools, 18-5. The Irish have won each of the last eight meetings between the foes, marking the longest winning streak in the series. Four of Boston College’s five wins over the Irish have come in Chestnut Hill with the other being the NCAA Championship meeting in West Lafayette, Indiana. The Eagles have yet to win a game at Notre Dame in 11 tries.
Boston College is one of Notre Dame’s two ACC “crossover” opponents (along with Georgia Tech) where the teams annually play a home-and-home series as opposed to just a single contest yearly. Boston College will make its annual trip to Notre Dame on Feb. 23 for Senior Night.
Despite being members of two conferences together, the BIG EAST and the ACC, the teams have met once in postseason play and that was not in a conference tournament. The Eagles best the Irish, 78-61, in the first round of the 2006 NCAA Championship at Purdue’s Mackey Arena.
Last year Notre Dame swept the two meetings with Boston College. On Jan. 14 in Chestnut Hill, Marina Mabrey came off the bench to score a team-high 14 points while Brianna Turner chipped eight points, 13 rebounds and four blocks into a 63-50 win. On Feb. 27 at Notre Dame, Madison Cable’s 20 points led the Irish to a 70-58 victory which clinched its third-straight ACC regular season title.
Irish Don’t Stay Down For Long
One of the hallmarks of Notre Dame’s recent run of success has been its ability to get back up after being knocked down.
The Irish have not lost consecutive games in six years, stemming back to a Nov. 18, 2010, loss to No. 15 UCLA, 86-83 in double overtime, and a Nov. 21, 2010, loss at No. 9 Kentucky, 81-76. Including that loss to the Wildcats, followed up by a win against IUPUI, Notre Dame has bounced back to win its next contest following each of its last 21 losses.
The Irish are 3-0 this year following a loss, downing No. 16 DePaul on Dec. 10, three days after losing to No. 1 UConn; beating Georgia Tech on Jan. 2, four days after losing at NC State; and beating Central Michigan to open the season after falling to Stanford in the 2016 NCAA Sweet 16.
Another Nice 19-Game Start For Irish
The 2016-17 Irish stand at 16-3 on the year. This high rate of success is not uncommon.
This is the sixth consecutive year where Notre Dame has started a season 16-3 or better. The 2010-11 team was the last one to win less than 16 of its first 19 games and that squad stood at a solid 15-4 at this mid-season juncture. It is a record to take pride in, but the three losses still haunt the team’s coach.
”That’s what happens when expectations are so high,” McGraw said. “You look at 16-3 and you feel like you’re 3-16. I know trying to see the big picture and trying to be positive because we can still win a national championship. We might not be a number one seed, but we can certainly still win. This team, this is all new for them. (Many of them) weren’t here for all of those Final Fours. They are making the climb. We’re back to the beginning where we’ve got to really work to get there. Hopefully it will come easier next year.”
Lindsay Allen has 696 career assists after her dishing out 10 dimes at Tennessee. She is on the verge of becoming the fourth player in Notre Dame history and the fifth in ACC history to reach this milestone. This season alone. Allen is fourth nationally with 137 assists and seventh with 7.2 assists per game. Allen is currently third with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.61. She leads the ACC in all three categories as well.
In 27th place on that same chart is Brianna Turner. Turner needs nine more points to match Krissi Davis in 26th place and 17 to match Heidi Bunek’s career sum of 1,202 in 25th place.
Meanwhile, coach McGraw has 748 wins at Notre Dame, leaving her two shy of becoming the seventh coach in women’s basketball history to claim 750 victories at a single school and just the fourth woman, joining Tennessee’s Pat Summitt, Stanford’s Tara VanDerveer and Texas’ Jody Conradt. She would be one of four coaches – men’s or women’s- to claim 750 wins at a single school while reaching seven Final Fours and five national championship games, matching a trio of elite benchmarks hit by just Summitt and UConn’s Geno Auriemma among women’s coaches and Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski and North Carolina’s Dean Smith among men’s coaches.
Coach McGraw Says
On what the team can improve from Tennessee to Boston College: “We can work on a lot of things, especially defensively. We gave up too many points in the second half (at Tennessee). We haven’t really had a chance to practice because it’s always been the day before the game. The schedule’s been so hectic of a pace. It’s been hard to really focus on us. This is a game where a lot of the things we’ve been working on will help us defensively.”
How to Watch/Listen
The first official steps towards the creation of an ACC Network began this summer in conjunction with ESPN. Most non-televised ACC road games will now be streamed under the banner of ACC Network Extra, similar to all of Notre Dame's non-televised home games. Games are available online at WatchESPN.com (formerly branded as ESPN3) or through the WatchESPN app. Streams are free to all ESPN subscribers.
Information on how to access WatchESPN is available here.
For those familiar with the WatchESPN, the direct link to the webcast of Thursday's game is available here.
Bob Nagle is in his 12th season as the radio voice of the Irish. Notre Dame's local home on the radio is Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) while the audio is also available globally via WatchND.tv and the WatchND app. The audio link for the broadcast is here.
Leigh Torbin, athletics communications associate director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 2013 and coordinates all media efforts for Notre Dame's women's basketball and men's golf teams. A native of Framingham, Massachusetts, Torbin graduated from the University of Massachusetts in 1998 with a bachelor's degree in sports management. He has previously worked full-time on the athletic communications staffs at Vanderbilt, Florida, Connecticut and UCF.