Notre Dame shifts gears for Ohio St after losing Turner
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) Hoping to keep its national title hopes alive, top-seeded Notre Dame is shifting its style to address the loss of leading scorer and rebounder Brianna Turner to a season-ending knee injury.
Coach Muffet McGraw said everyone must step up and play better when the Irish (32-3) face No. 5 seed Ohio State (28-5) in the Sweet 16 in Lexington, Kentucky on Friday - while also not trying to do too much.
''I think it's important and that we don't try to go off one on one, but that we use this as a team effort, everybody do a little bit more,'' she said .
Specifically, Notre Dame will look to rely more on its guards for offense and hopes hobbled forward Kathryn Westbeld can help replace some of Turner's scoring and boards.
''It doesn't change our goal. It probably changes the odds a little bit,'' McGraw said Wednesday. ''But certainly we still have great guard play. We still have really good players, a lot of all-Americans, and have a team capable of getting that far.''
Point guard Lindsay Allen said the Irish will have to spread the floor.
''We're on to our new style, shooting a bunch of 3s, attacking gaps, finding holes in the defense and being able to play with a more open offense,'' she said.
The 6-foot-3 Turner, the two-time Atlantic Coast Conference defensive player of the year, was leading the Irish with 15.3 points and 7.1 rebounds.
Westbeld has started 25 games this season and is averaging 8.4 points and 5.1 rebounds and filled in for Turner last season when she missed six games with a shoulder injury. Westbeld has sat out five of Notre Dame's last 16 games with an injured left ankle, which she describes as a sprain she keeps aggravating. McGraw estimates Westbeld is about 60 percent healthy.
''I'm doing what I can, day by day. Pain is pain. It's all right, I can get through it,'' Westbeld said. ''I'm definitely not myself. Just a little slower than normal. I don't have my vertical as much as I did. But I'm doing what I can.''
McGraw said freshman forward Erin Boley, who is averaging 6.2 points, would likely start. She said Boley, who has started eight games, and freshman guard Jackie Young, who has been Notre Dame's sixth player all season, averaging 7.1 points, are ready to take on bigger roles.
''They can do a lot of great things on offense and I think we'll be harder to guard on the perimeter now because everyone is a force, because everybody can score. So they're going to have to extend their defense,'' McGraw said.
Boley, who also could fill in some for Turner, said playing defense in the post has been the biggest challenge.
''I have been guarding the post a little bit, but guarding a true five is something I have to work on physically,'' Boley said.
Allen said the injury to Turner is reminiscent to a knee injury sustained by Natalie Achonwa in a regional final in 2014, when the Irish responded with an 87-61 victory over Maryland in the Final Four.
''That team was so mentally focused and so locked into the task. No one could have stopped us in that game,'' she said.
She said she hopes the Irish respond with a similar effort against Ohio Stae.
Notes: McGraw said Turner not only tore the anterior cruciate ligament, she also tore the medial collateral ligament and sustained other damage. She said Turner would need to recover some before undergoing surgery and is expected to be out for six months.