basketball Edit

No. 4 Notre Dame Falls At No. 25 Miami, 72-65

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Muffet McGraw's Irish lost on the road for the second time in 11 days. (John Amis/Associated Press)

Twenty-fours after the Notre Dame men’s basketball team left with its most dismal performance of the year in a 62-47 loss at Miami, the No. 4-ranked Fighting Irish women likewise left South Beach with a disconcerting 72-65 defeat to the Hurricanes. Box Score.

The loss dropped Notre Dame (21-3 overall) to 8-2 in the ACC and in a tie at second place with Miami (20-5 overall), Florida State and NC State, while Louisville is in first place.

The game was knotted at 22 after one quarter, and Miami took a 36-34 halftime lead when 6-4 center Beatrice Mompremier converted right before the horn.

Notre Dame’s final lead came on a free throw by senior Jessica Shepard — who finished with 17 points and 17 rebounds (eight on offense) — at 41-40 that would end a 7-0 Irish run. Miami’s Taylor Mason then converted a three to take the lead for good. The closest the Irish came thereafter was 53-52 on an Arike Ogunbowale jumper, right before the third quarter ended with Miami ahead 54-52.

An Ogunbowale three cut it to 65-63 with 1:16 left before Miami closed with a 7-2 run to pull the upset. The Hurricanes entered the game as an efficient three-point shooting team, ranking 24th in the country at a .370 clip while draining about seven treys per game. Against the Irish they were only 3 of 16 (18.8 percent), but Notre Dame wasn’t much better at 3 of 14.

The difference was the Twin Tower tandem of Mompremier (18 points, 12 rebounds) and 6-3 Emese Hof (21 points, 13 rebounds), who combined for 39 points and 25 rebounds while helping keep the Notre Dame offense at bay with 37.3 percent shooting (22 of 59).

Off the bench, Mason’s 13 points, two on threes while also beating the Irish to the bucket on drives, were pivotal as well.

Eleven days earlier in a 78-73 loss at North Carolina, the absence of junior Jackie Young to an injury was a convenient alibi. Young has been back in the lineup since then, but the reigning national champs and preseason favorites to repeat still have not found an overall groove as they embark into the back stretch of the regular season.

"We lost the game because we couldn't contain the ball," head coach Muffet McGraw said afterwards. "They beat us to the basket. It cost us the game, same as it did at North Carolina. We've got to find a way to figure out what we can do on defense."


Three-Point Play

1.The Mid-Range Game

When the Irish are running in the transition game, it is a beautiful sight. When Marina Mabrey is draining the three-point shot — as she did at a ridiculous clip of nearly 70 percent the last three games and 27 of 46 (59 percent) in the last seven — it helps open up the offense.

But the half-court offense, especially the high-low game so effective last year with Kathryn Westbeld, has been sporadic, and the mid-range jumper was absent at Miami. Both Shepard and Young can hit those 10- to 15-foot shots but mostly drove to the basket. It might work against lesser foes, but against a taller and talented team like Miami which holds opponents to 36-percent shooting — never mind No. 1 Baylor potentially down the road (31.4 percent field goal defense) — it has been a problem. They need to and are capable of draining those shots to help prevent defenses from backing off.


2. Stretching The Defense

Somewhere along the line, the law of averages dictate that Ogunbowale’s three-point shooting will improve. It especially needs to on Mabrey’s off days. The past two years Ogunbowale drained 129 treys at an impressive .415 percentage. This year she is shooting at a .298 rate. Young never has been a three-point shooter (6 of 17 this year), so a consistent second option would be beneficial, unless the mid-range game can also become more consistent, to augment the emphasis on getting the ball inside.


3. The Burden Of Expectations

This team is reminding me of what Lou Holtz’s football team went through in the early 1990s after a school-record 23-game winning streak in 1988-89. On paper, the roster was more talented with NFL personnel in the early 1990s, but the target on their back was immense, the chemistry wasn't always ideal, and several times there were head-scratching losses that sent tremors across the college football world.

There is outstanding individual talent on this team as well, but how it meshes collectively while maintaining a competitive fire and mental toughness (like last year) is a different animal.

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