WASHINGTON -- Notre Dame women’s basketball coach Muffet McGraw looked like she was searching for an escape route from the media room at Georgetown’s McDonough Arena after Saturday’s loss. McGraw paced and turned away from reporters when Fighting Irish senior Ashley Barlow stood at the podium and answered questions. Finally, when Barlow responded to the last question, McGraw bolted out of the room. Notre Dame may have an even tougher time finding an escape route out of the tight squeeze it finds itself in after losing two consecutive games on the road to ranked opponents. Playing its second game in three days against a team that had an extra day’s rest, Notre Dame lost to No. 22 St. John’s, 76-70, on Tuesday. Then, on Saturday, it suffered a 76-66 setback at No. 14 Georgetown. Now, the Irish are heading into their final three games of the regular season fighting to earn a double-bye in the Big East Conference tournament. The league’s top four teams receive a double-bye, meaning they would only have to win three games to take the tourney crown. If the Irish fall to a No. 5 seed, they would face the prospect of playing as many as four games. No. 1 Connecticut currently owns a 13-0 league record, followed by Georgetown and West Virginia at 11-2 each. Notre Dame is 10-3, a game ahead of St. John’s, but the Red Storm own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Irish. Notre Dame (23-3) hosts Marquette on Tuesday night, visits Seton Hall on Saturday then hosts UConn on Monday, March 1. Notre Dame’s two losses this week may also drop the it from contention for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, even though the Irish are playing without Lindsay Schrader, who averages 11.3 points and 7.3 rebounds. Schrader suffered a left ankle injury last Sunday against DePaul, and missed the losses at St. John’s and Georgetown. “As you can see the past two games, Lindsay is really important to us,” Barlow said. “We need her for rebounding. We need her to get in there and make some buckets for us inside. She’s a big key to our offense and defense. She’s really, really strong in there. She goes after the ball. She fights for it.” McGraw said that with Schrader’s status uncertain for the stretch run, it’s critical that the Irish step up. “I thought the difference in the game was that their role players stepped up, and nobody stepped up for us,” McGraw said Saturday. “I was really, really disappointed in our post game. I thought Erica Williamson gave us some great minutes. Our post game - we obviously really missed Lindsay.” Schrader’s absence was painfully revealed in the rebounding statistics against Georgetown. The Hoyas, who had only outrebounded four Big East opponents entering Saturday’s game and had only outrebounded one opponent in their last six games, belted the Irish for a 36-31 edge on the boards. Georgetown owned a 19-8 advantage in offensive rebounds and outscored Notre Dame, 22-6, in second-chance points. “We get in trouble for not rebounding all the time,” said Georgetown’s Latia Magee. “Coach (Terri Williams-Flourney) actually just put in a new rebounding drill in practice because we don’t rebound. Our biggest emphasis this week was rebounding. We’re undersized in the Big East, and we’ve had trouble rebounding.” McGraw was clearly pained by the rebounding numbers. “I thought it was attitude,” McGraw said. “Georgetown just wanted it more.”
Pressing concernNotre Dame forced the first four turnovers of the game by ripping off four Georgetown passes. After that, the Hoyas forced Notre Dame into 21 turnovers, while only committing six more the rest of the game. The 21-10 margin stung the Irish, who have only committed more turnovers than an opponent two other times this season - Connecticut (19-18) and Vanderbilt (16-14). “They’re a very good defensive team,” McGraw said about Georgetown. “Their press is very good, and we were incredibly careless with the ball. I thought they forced us into a number of turnovers. We really, our veterans just didn’t handle it well at all. It starts with the guards. They can’t handle the press, and we can’t get into our offense. We repeatedly asked them to attack it a certain way, and they just simply wouldn’t do it. I don’t know why. I don’t know what happened. We worked on it, and we didn’t do what we practiced.”
ND recruit honoredNotre Dame recruit Kayla McBride, who led Villa Maria Academy of Pennsylvania to a state title last season, is one of 24 student-athletes named to the 2010 McDonald’s Girls High School All-America Team. The incoming Irish freshman will compete for the East team in the All-America Game on March 31 in Columbus, Ohio (5:30 p.m. tipoff, ESPNU). “This is an incredible honor and we are so proud of Kayla,” McGraw said. “She put in so much time and effort during the offseason to improve her game, and it’s such a thrill to see that kind of hard work and dedication pay off.” McBride, a 5-foot-11 guard, is the sixth future Notre Dame women’s basketball player, and third in four seasons, to earn McDonald’s High School All-America recognition since the girls team was first created in 2002. The other such players include Courtney LaVere (2002), Crystal Erwin (2003) and a trio of current Irish players - Lindsay Schrader (2005), Devereaux Peters (2007) and Skylar Diggins (2009). Diggins shared Most Valuable Player honors at last year’s game in Coral Gables, Fla. McBride is averaging 19.0 points this season and Villa Maria is 19-2.
Watson to Grand Valley St.Former Notre Dame player Kellie Watson intends to sign with Division II Grand Valley State. Watson played in one game this season for the Irish before being sidelined by a knee injury. She underwent surgery and did not return to Notre Dame after winter break. Watson, Michigan’s 2008 Miss Basketball, will apply for a medical redshirt and hopes to have three seasons of eligibility with Grand Valley. Last season as a freshman, Watson played in all 31 games and averaged 3.8 points and 2.5 rebounds.
Staff writer Curt Rallo: email@example.com (574) 235-6152