Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Sports

Three-game stretch allowed Irish to envision perfect end

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw remembers looking over her team's schedule and noticing a daunting two-week span in which her squad would play at Tennessee, at Maryland and at Duke.

"I thought, 'That's going to determine our season, right there,' in terms of how far can we go, how good can we be?" McGraw said. "I think when we won those three games, that's when we started to think, 'You know, I think we can be pretty good.' "

The Irish (36-0) have been better than pretty good, posting the best regular season in school history. It's not what anybody expected after Skylar Diggins, one of the best players in school history, graduated last year. However, the Irish returned four starters and a talented freshmen class.

The Irish started the season ranked sixth and turned hope for a Final Four berth into belief after that stretch between Jan. 20 and Feb. 2.

"I think the Tennessee game is when we woke up and saw everyone's coming together," Jewell Loyd said.

The Irish fell behind 42-30 as Loyd and Lindsay Allen sat with foul trouble. But the Irish overcame the slow start and hostile crowd for an 86-70 win. Even better, the comeback was fueled in large part by the reserves, led by Taya Reimer, Michaela Mabrey and Madison Cable. Notre Dame's bench outscored Tennessee's backups 36-16.

"They kind of stole the show that game. … That's when you go, 'Okay. Now we have it,' " McGraw said.

Loyd called that victory a confidence-builder. "Looking at that game, we're like, 'We have a chance to do something very special here.' I think that's the game the turned everything around," she said.

After mounting a big comeback against Tennessee, the Irish had to find a way to hold on against Maryland, the team they will face Sunday in the national semifinal. Notre Dame jumped to a 41-19 lead but by halftime the Terrapins had cut it to 12. Maryland tied the score twice and briefly took a one-point lead midway through the second half before the Irish finally won 87-83.

There weren't any dramatic swings against Duke as the Irish won handily, 88-67.

The Irish said after those three wins is when they began thinking this season might be special.

"We played three tough opponents on their floors," Allen said. "We realized if we played well enough, we would have a chance to go undefeated."

Comments
Admiral Farragut’s grit brings state softball glory

Admiral Farragut’s grit brings state softball glory

VERO BEACH — It was only natural to think of Admiral Farragut’s state title chances more in terms of the future. After all, the roster consists of zero seniors and just two juniors. The rest are sophomores, freshmen and middle-schoolers. Because of t...
Updated: 3 hours ago
The key stat for Lightning-Capitals Game 7? Score first

The key stat for Lightning-Capitals Game 7? Score first

As the Lightning and Capitals prepare for their series finale Wednesday night at Amalie Arena in Tampa, here's a by-the-numbers look at each team's Game 7 history.5-2The Lightning's record in Game 7s. It has never lost at home (3-0).+5The Lightning's...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Rays loss to Red Sox

Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Rays loss to Red Sox

Marc Topkin's takeaways from Rays 4-2 loss to Red Sox on Tuesday:* The Rays record against a Red Sox team they consider a measuring stick doesn't look very good at 3-8. But, as manager Kevin Cash and several players pointed out, there is some consola...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Rays journal: Critics don’t faze Sergio Romo or team

Rays journal: Critics don’t faze Sergio Romo or team

ST. PETERSBURG — Criticisms of the Rays' latest innovative pitching strategy have piled up since Angels INF Zack Cosart said after Sunday's game that starting RHP Sergio Romo to get the first three-six outs was "bad for baseball.''One of the lo...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Willy Adames homers, but Rays fall to Red Sox and suffer injuries

Willy Adames homers, but Rays fall to Red Sox and suffer injuries

ST. PETERSBURG — Top prospect Willy Adames is only going to get to stay with the Rays for a few days, so good for him for making the most of it with a home run in his first big-league game, and off Red Sox ace Chris Sale no less.But the good fe...
Updated: 3 hours ago
do your thing, mr. do-it-all

do your thing, mr. do-it-all

TAMPA — He’s the Lightning’s best player. He’s its most important player.Well, other than goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy. That’s a given. Every team relies most heavily on its goalie.But if the Lightning is going win a nerve-racking, heart-stopping, nail-...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Academy at the Lakes wins first state softball title

Academy at the Lakes wins first state softball title

VERO BEACH —Academy at the Lakes waited two weeks to play in the Class 2A state softball tournament in hopes of winning what has been an elusive title.The Wildcats completed the first task Monday, cruising to a mercy-rule win over Fort Pierce John Ca...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Lightning-Capitals: Tampa Bay’s Game 7 to-do list

Lightning-Capitals: Tampa Bay’s Game 7 to-do list

TAMPA — By now there are no more secrets. After six games over 11 days, the Lightning knows all the Capitals' habits , and the Caps know all the Lightning's.To Lightning coach Jon Cooper the outcome of tonight's Game 7 of the Eastern Conference...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Gerald McCoy appreciates help on D-line, but knows it will take more than names on paper

Gerald McCoy appreciates help on D-line, but knows it will take more than names on paper

TAMPA — He's 30."I know. I'm getting old," Gerald McCoy said Tuesday, shaking his head.He's still a young man, of course. But in football years, McCoy has finally reached a black balloon birthday. This is his ninth season with the Bucs, which i...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Lightning journal: You gotta love Game 7s

Lightning journal: You gotta love Game 7s

TAMPA — Welcome to Game 7, the most fun a player can have if he's fortunate enough to play in one. At least, that is how Lightning D Anton Stralman sees tonight's Eastern Conference final finale."I take pleasure in playing a Game 7," Stralman s...
Updated: 6 hours ago