Feb. 24, 2015
Less than a month ago at Virginia Tech, University of Notre Dame women's basketball player Taya Reimer took an elbow to the mouth as she fought for a rebound.
Monday night against Louisville, Reimer took two shots to the face.
Bruise on top of bruise.
Reimer is taking shots as she gets more physical for the Fighting Irish, and, she's making shots.
Reimer connected on eight of eight shots from the field to score 16 points, turning into the difference maker as No. 4 Notre Dame knocked off No. 8/7 Louisville, 68-52, Monday night in Atlantic Coast Conference women's basketball action at Purcell Pavilion.
Notre Dame won its 12th game in a row by knocking off the Cardinals. The Fighting Irish are 26-2 overall and hold a one-game lead over Florida State in the ACC standings with a 13-1 record. Notre Dame's next game is at 7 p.m. (ET) Thursday, when the Fighting Irish close out the home portion of the regular season against Pittsburgh.
Reimer let her toughness shine through Louisville's physical play. She was roughed up inside, and responded by playing strong.
With the Cardinals daring Reimer to shoot from the elbow, the 6-foot-3 sophomore swished jumper after jumper.
Louisville tried to slug Notre Dame with a run early in the second half, and it was Reimer who counter-punched.
A Reimer jumper at the 17:55 mark of the second half gave Notre Dame a 35-32 lead.
A Reimer blocked shot on the next possession put the ball back in Fighting Irish hands.
Louisville tied the score, but a power move to the hoop by Reimer gave Notre Dame a 39-37 lead.
As the Fighting Irish gained momentum, another jumper by Reimer gave the hosts an eight-point lead at 45-37, and Notre Dame was on its way.
Fighting Irish head coach Muffet McGraw said that she loves the toughness that Reimer has been showing in games and by working hard in practice and on her own.
"I think she's in there mixing it up, and I like how physical she's being," McGraw said of Reimer. "I like that she has an extra effort at practice. She really, really is working hard in practice, and working hard in a game. Taya is working at a different level. We have people who always work at a certain level -- Jewell Loyd, Lindsay Allen, Madison Cable, to name a few, and Taya is working at that level. That's the reason she has been successful."
Stephanie White, head coach of WNBA's Indiana Fever and a color commentator for ESPN2 at the Big Monday showdown between two Top 10 teams, said that Reimer can be the key to a Fighting Irish run for the NCAA title.
"This should be the expectation what she did against Louisville, not necessarily the perfect from the floor, but the offensive aggressiveness," White said. "If you can add another consistent double-figure scorer, especially somebody like Taya who can knock down that high-post shot to open things up for Brianna Turner inside, to loosen things up for Jewell Loyd, that dimension and the dynamic that she can bring can help this team compete for a championship."
Reimer scored 10 of her 16 points in the second half. She entered the game averaging 9.6 points a game. It was her best offensive output since scoring 19 against Georgia Tech on Jan. 22.
"It was really exciting," Reimer said of her perfect shooting night. "I've been up and down with my mid-range jumper this season. I've been getting in the gym and working on that shot with (associate head coach Carol Owens) before and after practice, coming in late at night and getting shots up. It's really nice to have a game like that, where I hit that mid-range jumper. I'm glad that the work is paying off."
According to White, Reimer needs to put the ball up more for the Fighting Irish.
"I think Taya needs to be hunting shots offensively, and be more confident in her abilities," White said. "A lot of times you see some indecision when she catches it, looking to put the ball on the floor or pass it, as opposed to taking open shots. She needs to be aggressive to the rim as well. I think she should be an eight-to-10 rebounder every single game. I think that comes from being self-assured and being confident, and games like this will help her confidence."
McGraw said that she has been encouraging Reimer to be more of a presence offensively.
"It's so important for Taya to get more shots in our offense," McGraw said. "I feel like we need to get her more shots. She's been a lot more aggressive and looking to score a lot more, looking to get to the free-throw line. She's working a lot on her free-throw jumper. Every day after practice, I see her shooting those. It's so important for our offense, for our spacing, so they can't sag off of her so they can't double-team down low ... it's just really important that we get that high-low game going.
"It helps everybody if Taya scores," McGraw added. "Everybody loosens up. It opens things up for Bri, it takes pressure off of Jewell ... it just takes pressure off of the offense. We don't have to worry about running a specific play for a specific person. We can just play and see what happens."
Although she is highly regarded for her unselfishness, Reimer understands what hitting a mid-range jumper can do for Notre Dame.
"It's hard for me, because I feel like I'm an unselfish player, trying to look for Brianna Turner and Jewell Loyd, because we have such great talent on this team," Reimer said. "I've been trying to look for those shots more and I'm trying to be more aggressive offensively."
As Notre Dame gears up to try and lock down the ACC regular-season crown, and then focus on the ACC and NCAA tournaments, the Fighting Irish are looking to Reimer as a critical factor.
"I need to build off of this game," Reimer said. "I have to keep getting shots up, and keeping working with Coach Owens before and after practice. As a post group, Brianna, Kathryn (Westbeld) and I, we're starting to click. We just have to keep building and keep learning how to play together. We're all so young, but I think it's starting to happen at the perfect time."
-- by Curt Rallo, special correspondent