The Notre Dame Fighting Irish are now 8-1 after their loss to UConn. But it wasn’t UConn who won the game.
In one of the closest games of the season through three-quarters, the Fighting Irish seemed to shoot themselves in the foot time and time again late in the game. A few fewer turnovers and some made baskets in the second half, and Notre Dame could’ve easily been the team on top.
UConn played better. It was clear that at the end of the game, they had the momentum and refused to give it up. In tight games, that’s how you win. Playing from behind against Geno Auriemma rarely gives you the chance to win, which is exactly what happened to Notre Dame.
Don’t get it skewed, though. Notre Dame lost this game themselves. Just like they kept their games against Green Bay and Washington close, they kept UConn around long enough to lose.
Notre Dame’s biggest issue this season is themselves. This team has more talent than any team in the NCAA. Their problem is that they refuse to play to their ability, and play to the level of their competition.
Former Irish star, Skylar Diggins, told ESPN before the UConn game that she wonders if the Irish more to the level of their competition.
The Irish have three players averaging over 40% from behind the arc. All season, their shooting ability had led them to 8-0 and saved them in tight games. Against UConn, the Huskies shot 11.1% from three. So, what did Notre Dame do? They shot 21.4% and their leading three point shooters combined for 2-7 from deep.
It’s been every game. Notre Dame plays games based on how their opponent plays. When Green Bay decided it would be a defensive game, Notre Dame said “okay.” The Irish lead the entire game, and had every opportunity to pull away at any moment, but kept it close, just not close enough, the whole game.
What will come back to hurt the Irish this season will be how they keep these team around in the fourth quarter. In Notre Dame’s three close games, the Irish lost the fourth quarter battle every time. In these three games, they’ve been outscored 63-48 in the final 10 minutes.
It’s clear what Notre Dame’s problem is. Everyone agrees that they have arguably the most talented group of women in college basketball. They just like to keep it close, and as well saw, it’s going to hurt them against top teams.
Maybe it’s a second-half problem. But it sure seems like Notre Dame doesn’t want to play their style of game. If they haven’t been able to find their identity, then Muffet McGraw needs to fix that.
No one knows the exact reason Notre Dame doesn’t want to dominate games, but it needs to change, and it needs to change now.