Notre Dame more diverse scoring team than in past years
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) Notre Dame's women's basketball team has a decidedly different look than past years as it heads to its seventh straight appearance in an NCAA Tournament regional semifinal:
There's no Jewell Loyd, Kayla McBride or Skylar Diggins that opponents need to worry about.
''We've had a superstar on our team ever since I've been here, but it's a different feel this year,'' senior Michaela Mabrey said.
The Irish are a more diverse scoring team, with Brianna Turner, Madison Cable, Arike Ogunbowale and Marina Mabrey each averaging in double figures. Lindsay Allen is averaging 10.8 points against ranked opponents and two others have led the Irish in scoring in games this season. Turner is the leading scorer at 14.5 points a game, their lowest leading-scorer since Diggins averaged 13.8 points as a freshman during the 2009-10 season.
The Irish don't have the ''go-to'' player they usually have.
''The great thing about this team is it isn't one person. If one person is having an off night, you can rely on the person next to you,'' McGraw said. ''We're playing a lot of people, so there's no pressure on any one person.''
That could pose a problem for No. 4 seed Stanford (26-7) when it faces top-seed Notre Dame 9 p.m. Friday in Lexington, Kentucky, because the Cardinal don't know who will get the ball in key situations. McGraw might draw up a pick-and-roll with Allen and Turner, Cable coming off a screen or Michaela Mabrey hitting a 3-pointer when Notre Dame needs a score, although the Irish haven't had many go-to moments this season.
Only nine of Notre Dame's victories were by 10 points or less. Allen missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer against UCLA, but the Irish won in overtime. She made a pair of free throws with 6 seconds left in a 62-61 win over Oregon State. There haven't been many other game-deciding moments in the closing seconds, mainly because with so many scorers other teams aren't able to keep pace.
''We just have so many threats from the 3-point line to inside, especially our freshman off the bench, they're amazing,'' Turner said. ''I think our team dynamics are just so much more complex this year.''
The Irish showed how diverse they could be in the first rounds of the tournament, when Allen didn't attempt a shot against North Carolina A&T, then had 18 in the first half against Indiana in the second round, finishing with 22. She had a career-high 28 last season in knocking out Stanford last season in a regional semifinal in Oklahoma City.
''She's just so smart,'' McGraw said. ''She knows when to take her shots and when she's going to give the ball up.''
Cable said it's easier for everyone to be unselfish because the Irish have so many scorers.
''We're so balanced, we have so many weapons that can contribute every single game,'' she said. ''We have the starters and then the people coming off the bench score, too. Not many teams in the country can say they have that.''