The Notre Dame women’s basketball team will host Villanova this evening in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Aside from losing a key contributor in Kathryn Westbeld early on, the first round of the 2018 NCAA Tournament could not have gone much better for the Notre Dame women’s basketball team.
Today, they’ll try to keep the momentum rolling at home against the Villanova Wildcats. Villanova got here by way of an 81-74 overtime win against South Dakota. The win improved Villanova’s record to 23-8 on the season.
The Wildcats will be a much tougher test for the Irish than Cal-State Northridge was. Here are the keys to Notre Dame beating Villanova and moving on to their ninth-straight Sweet 16.
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Hound the ball on defense
Notre Dame’s guards gave Cal-State Northridge fits all game by constantly poking and prodding at the ball. That led to 15 turnovers and consistently killed any momentum the Matadors tried to muster. The Irish will need to pressure Villanova’s more talented guards the same way to prevent them from getting comfortable in the high-pressure setting.
Guard the perimeter
Three of Villanova’s top-five scorers are assassins from beyond the 3-point line. The Irish need to suffocate those shooters at the perimeter and give up as few open looks as possible. Adrianna Hahn and Janna Tucker combined for 12 three-pointers against South Dakota State. Those shots kept Villanova in the game and eventually were the difference in the win.
Feed the ball to Jessica Shepard early
Shepard was a beat in the paint in the first round, putting up 24 points and hauling down ten rebounds. Coach Muffet McGraw may look to run everything through her early on — both to get some easy buckets and open everything else up for the other star scorers. Once Villanova starts to send help underneath to stop Shepard, that will give Arike Ogunbowale more room to operate and Marina Mabrey more open looks on the perimeter.
In other news of note, Kathryn Westbeld will be a game-time decision.