On Thursday, the No. 24 Michigan women’s basketball team (2-0) travels to Notre Dame (1-1) for its third non-conference game.

It’s the Wolverines’ most challenging non-conference game on their schedule. The Irish were ranked No. 22 prior to their loss against Ohio last week. Notre Dame is the only big-name program Michigan will compete against outside of Big Ten play this season.

Unfortunately for the Wolverines, who are hoping to keep their 2-0 win streak alive, the Irish have traditionally had the upper hand in past contests. Ahead of Thursday’s matchup, Michigan has lost the last four times the teams have met. Notre Dame leads the series 13-7, with an 8-1 record against the Wolverines at Purcell Pavilion.

The Daily breaks down what Michigan will need to accomplish if it wants to reverse the tides of the series and pick up a tough road win to stay undefeated. 

Fast-Paced Offense

The Irish’s offense has undergone some changes this year, much like their entire program. Longtime head coach Muffet Mcgraw stepped down at the end of last season after 33 seasons replaced by former assistant coach Niele Ivey.

With Ivey’s new status comes a more aggressive, fast-paced offense for Notre Dame. The Irish play quick and like to push the ball up the floor in transition. Notre Dame has scored a combined 46 points off fast breaks in its two games thus far, and in its loss to Ohio, scored 30 points off turnovers alone.

Guards Destinee Walker and Anaya Peoples have both proven scrappy on the defensive end. Walker had two steals against Ohio, and Peoples had five against Miami (OH) — adding to the team total of 14 in that game.  

This could be a challenge for the Wolverines, as turnovers have plagued their offense so far this season. Despite earning two convincing wins, Michigan had 16 turnovers in its season opener against Central Michigan and coughed up 19 against Oakland. The Wolverines will need to contain the fast breaks if they hope to corral an opportunistic Irish offense.

“The other team wanted to play at a faster pace and we were playing along with that,” junior forward Naz Hillmon said after Michigan’s game against the Chippewas. “Not saying that we can’t play a fast pace but we want to keep our pace in terms of we need to slow it down so that we don’t get those turnovers. A couple of turnovers in transition hurt us a little bit and we understood that they were getting a lot of points off of our turnovers.”

Post Defense

In Notre Dame’s last two games, 90 of its 173 points have come from the paint. Shooting 48.28% from the field, the Irish’s offense capitalizes on transition points. Forward Maddy Westbeld had 19 points in the game against Ohio, the majority of which were in the paint. Walker added another 24 in that game, where she continued to drive to the basket. Peoples is also confident in the post, as she plays well with Westbeld and Walker and uses the drive and dish to her advantage.

Post defense is one of the Wolverines’ strengths with Hillmon on the block, but without sophomore center Izabel Varejão — who’s still in Brazil — they could struggle against the Irish down low. Fifth-year senior guard Akienreh Johnson, who stands 6-foot, is presumably still out with a leg injury after going down late against Central Michigan. This could put pressure on sophomore guard Maddie Nolan, her replacement who stands at just 5-foot-9, to make up for lost height in the post with scrappy defensive play.

Stopping Dara Maberry

Guard Dara Maberry transferred from Virginia Tech to Notre Dame in early June. So far for the Irish, Marberry’s proved vital in their fast-paced offense. She scored 34 points in her first showing against the Bobcats, 21 of which came from behind the 3-point line.   

However, in Notre Dame’s second game against Miami, Maberry disappeared, shooting 0-for-3 from the field. Maberry is a wildcard in the Irish’s offense. Her ability to score from all places on the floor, along with multiple other capable scorers, could prove difficult for Michigan to contain. Expect the Wolverines to attempt to contain her presence behind the arc and force other players to take those shots. 

The Wolverines will be truly tested on both ends of the floor by Notre Dame.

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