SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) Hall of Fame coach Muffet McGraw got exactly what she wanted from third-ranked Notre Dame in its first home game in 25 days with a quick start on the way to a 90-59 victory over Michigan State.
”I was a little worried – we’re coming into final exams, we finally get a chance to play at home and I wanted to make sure we came out ready,” McGraw said after Arike Ogunbowale scored 23 points to lead four Irish players in double figures Wednesday might.
”It’s an honor to play for her and to be coached by her every day,” Ogunbowale said after hitting 7 of 15 shots and finishing one rebound shy of a double-double.
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Three days after losing at No. 1 Connecticut, Notre Dame (8-1) ran out to a 47-16 halftime lead as McGraw, who was honored with a new banner in the Purcell Pavilion for her recent induction into the Naismith Hall of Fame, got plenty of production out of a seven-player rotation.
Junior transfer Jessica Shepard had 19 points, Jackie Young added 13 points and graduate transfer Lili Thompson had 12 and 10 rebounds off the bench for Notre Dame, which went 6-1 during its time away from campus.
Jenna Allen led Michigan State (5-3) with 28 points, and Lexi Gussert had 11.
”It was so important that we set a tone at the beginning of the game,” McGraw said.
Notre Dame did, especially in the second quarter while shooting 80 percent (8 of 10) from the field and holding the Spartans scoreless over the final 6:16 of the half.
Despite shooting just 33 percent in the third quarter, including a 2:23 scoreless streak to end it, Notre Dame maintained a 63-40 lead heading into the final quarter. Notre Dame shot 50.9 percent from the field while holding Michigan State to 30.8, and the Irish outrebounded the Spartans, 45-34.
Michigan State: Coach Suzy Merchant has work to do with her squad on both ends of the floor after Notre Dame shot 64 percent in the first half (16 of 25) while holding the Spartans to 18.8 percent (6 of 32). The Spartans entered the game shooting 43.5 percent while holding their opposition to 39.2.
Notre Dame: With Brianna Turner, Mychal Johnson and Mikayla Vaughn sidelined for the season with ACL injuries, McGraw went with a seven-player rotation in the first half. An eighth, freshman Danielle Patterson, saw limited action in each half.
NO REIM-ER REASON
Taya Reimer, who played on back-to-back NCAA runner-up teams in 2014 and 2015 for Notre Dame, was back at the Purcell Pavilion in a Michigan State uniform. Reimer, who earned her undergrad degree at Notre Dame, transferred to Michigan State following the 2015-16 season. She received a somewhat mixed reaction when she was announced as a starter. Reimer, who entered the game averaging 10.2 points and 4.2 rebounds a game, scored her first two baskets early in the third quarter and finished with 4 points and 3 rebounds.
THE GOOD SHEPARD
Shepard is no stranger to playing Michigan State. In fact, she played the Spartans twice last season – as a member of the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Shepard scored 15 and 32 points as Nebraska and Michigan State split a pair of games. In the two games last season, Shepard went to the free-throw line 34 times and made 17 (50 percent). Shepard entered the contest shooting 59.4 percent from the charity stripe (19 of 32) for Notre Dame and made her first two after she was fouled 15 seconds in by Reimer. Shepard finished with 19 points, thanks to 7-of-11 shooting from the field and 5 of 6 from the line.
”The guards did a great job passing the ball into me,” Shepard said.
HOME SWEET HOME I
Wednesday’s game was the first home game for Notre Dame in 25 days. After a 121-65 victory over Mount St. Mary’s on Nov. 11, the Irish played seven straight games on the road, travelling more than 9,800 miles. The last road game was an 80-71 setback last Sunday afternoon against No. 1 Connecticut in Hartford. With Wednesday’s victory, Notre Dame is 453-92 in Purcell Pavilion and in the midst of a 12-game winning streak.
HOME SWEET HOME II
McGraw, who played her collegiate basketball and got her collegiate coaching start as an assistant to Jim Foster at Saint Joseph’s in Philadelphia, gets a chance to go home this Saturday afternoon when the Irish travel to the Palestra to play Penn. ”I’m looking forward to have a cheesesteak, a Philly pretzel and catching up with some friends,” McGraw said after coaching her 1,001st game.