In the immediate aftermath of Saturday’s 76-58 loss to Connecticut, Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw offered that she believes her team can learn a lot from the setback.
It’s early, but dividends already may be evident.
“We had a great practice, maybe one of the best of the year,” McGraw said Monday evening as her team continued preparations for Wednesday night’s game at DePaul.
“The intensity was terrific. The attitude was really good. Just kind of a bounce-back mentality and I was really pleased when I left the gym today.”
The 8-1 Irish are expected to play without freshman Brianna Turner, sidelined with a shoulder injury. McGraw termed the 6-foot-3 post player “doubtful,” adding that Turner has been shooting but not taking part in practice.
“She’s improving daily. We’re going to progress her to practice and see how that goes eventually,” McGraw said. “Right now we’re trying to figure out what brace to put her in. She’s doing really well.”
— Muffet McGraw
For the Irish, who dropped to No. 5 in this week’s Associated Press poll, to do really well against the 25th-ranked and 6-2 Blue Demons, their transition defense will need to be in tip-top shape. DePaul utilizes a four-, and sometimes five-guard offense, and loves to run the floor.
Also, expect the Demons to launch a good number of 3-pointers Wednesday at McGrath-Phillips Arena in Chicago.
“They’re a tough matchup for us,” McGraw said. “Their transition game is exceptional. They really spread you out and shoot a ton of 3s and they’re very good shooters. And playing at home I think they’ll shoot it even better.”
McGraw, in her 28th season at ND, hasn’t had a lot of losses to deal with in recent years. Last year’s team went undefeated until losing to UConn in the national championship game.
“I always kind of judge my teams on how they handle a loss,” McGraw said. “I was not happy with the way we handled it toward the end of the game and immediately after the game. I thought today was much better. I was pleased with just the way they responded today.”
The nudge toward DePaul and away from UConn came partly from the coaching staff, partly from the locker room. During film study, McGraw said it was the coaches who pointed out things that could be done better.
“But when we got back to practice I thought the intensity and attitude came entirely from the team,” she said. “A lot of times the coaches kind of have to make sure there’s intensity and ratchet up the intensity, but it all came from them today.”