TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) - Arizona State coach Charli Turner Thorne outlined her team’s plan for trying to pull off a monumental upset against unbeaten Notre Dame.
“We’re thinking of shooting about 80 percent,” she joked. “We feel like that will do it.”
The ninth-seeded Sun Devils will indeed have to be almost flawless Monday night if they’re going to knock off the Fighting Irish. Notre Dame has been to three straight Final Fours and has won its last 14 games this season by double digits.
The Irish (33-0) are a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament for a third consecutive season and showed no signs of slowing down in a 51-point win over Robert Morris in the first round Saturday.
“I think when you’re playing well you just can’t wait to get back out there,” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. “Arizona State’s a very good team - very balanced, very versatile and very physical.”
Turner Thorne was being facetious when she talked about shooting 80 percent against the Irish, but the Sun Devils (23-9) did finish at 62 percent in their first-round win over Vanderbilt, overcoming turnovers and foul trouble to eliminate the Commodores.
Now, Arizona State faces the same question as so many other underdogs: Will the Sun Devils try to slow the game down against Notre Dame in an effort to keep it close?
“When you’re playing a team that wants a high-possession game and they’re favored, do you play the crawl ball?” Turner Thorne said. “I’ve definitely done that before. With our team, I think with Notre Dame, you’ve got to be aggressive and you’ve got to take the good look when you get it. I don’t think we can come down and hold the ball and then expect to get a good shot.”
Here are five things to watch when the Irish take on the Sun Devils:
CROWN JEWELL: McGraw had some high praise Sunday for sophomore guard Jewell Loyd, Notre Dame’s leading scorer. The 5-foot-10 Loyd is averaging 18.4 points per game - and a remarkable 6.3 rebounds.
“There’s no question, she’s the best athlete we’ve ever had,” said McGraw, the coach of the Irish since 1987. “She does some phenomenal things with and without the ball that nobody has ever been able to do before at Notre Dame.”
FOUL TROUBLE: Arizona State beat Vanderbilt despite a 27-9 disadvantage in free throws attempted. That’s not an ideal formula, obviously.
The Commodores went only 14 of 27 from the line. Notre Dame shoots 75 percent from the stripe on the season.
The Sun Devils will try to force the Irish to rely on their half-court offense.
“If we can limit their easy looks, take away their transition, take away their second shots, don’t put them on the free throw line - that takes away about 30-35 points,” Turner Thorne said. “Now you may be in position to beat them.”