Blue and Gold Illustrated

June-July 2017

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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52 JUNE/JULY 2017 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED WOMEN'S BASKETBALL BY LOU SOMOGYI T here have been big doings in Notre Dame women's basket- ball this decade, highlighted by five consecutive conference regular-season and tournament titles (Big East and ACC), five straight Fi- nal Four appearances (2011-15) and a program that overall has been second only to Connecticut since 2010. To remain or even exceed that level, the Irish must come up huge with the "bigs" on the recruiting circuit. In 2014, Notre Dame landed Gato- rade National Player of the Year Bri- anna Turner, who ranked with South Carolina's 6-5 A'Ja Wilson as the na- tion's premier post prospect. The two appeared headed on a col- lision course toward the national title, and as freshmen in 2015 Turner's Irish edged Wilson's Gamecocks 66-65 in a Final Four matchup, with Turner netting 17 points, eight rebounds and three blocks compared to Wilson's 20 points, nine boards and four blocks. This spring, Wilson was named the Most Outstanding Player in the Gamecocks' march to the national title … while first-team All-American Turner was sidelined in the second round with a torn ACL. Her status for the 2017-18 is uncertain, and head coach Muffet McGraw has indicated she will not use Turner part-time if she is less than 100 percent healed. It has been a difficult four-year stretch for Notre Dame in the post. In 2014, senior center Natalie Achonwa tore her ACL in the Elite Eight, diminishing the chances of the unbeaten Irish to defeat UConn. In 2015, 6-4 junior Taya Reimer — a top-five recruit — left Notre Dame to transfer to Michigan State. In 2016, the Irish heavily pursued three five-star Texans for the post, but Lauren Cox (Baylor), Joyner Holmes (Texas) and Ciera Johnson (Louisville, but transferred to Texas A&M after this past season) opted to sign else- where rather than join fellow Lone Star State native Turner. Turner 's devastating injury this 'BIG' QUESTIONS The Irish will try to reach new heights in their frontcourt Senior Kathryn Westbeld has been at her best in the high post in Notre Dame's motion offense, but she may end up having to serve as the team's top low-post presence next season. PHOTO BY JOE RAYMOND

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