Notre Dame's Muffet McGraw enjoys Philadelphia homecoming as Fighting Irish beat Penn, 66-54
The Fighting Irish's visit to the Palestra brought McGraw to town for the first time since her induction into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.
Muffet McGraw can have her pick of pretty much any court in the nation where she wants her No. 3-ranked Notre Dame team to play.
Just last weekend, the Fighting Irish visited No. 1 Connecticut in Hartford, and nearly won.
But for all the glitz and glamour that comes with being among women's basketball's elite, McGraw still holds her hometown close to her heart.
So it meant something for her to be at the Palestra on Saturday, coaching in Philadelphia for the first time since being inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in September.
She's been in that building not only as a coach, but also as a player for St. Joseph's in the 1970s. Her standout career on Hawk Hill earned her a place in the Big 5 Hall of Fame in 1990.
"I did play here way back when, before the building was remodeled," she said. "I think the locker rooms are still the same, though. … It was a friendly home environment to be in."
This time around, Penn honored McGraw with a small pregame ceremony that featured Mary DiStanislao, a former Penn athletic department administrator who was McGraw's predecessor as Irish head coach from 1980-87.
"I was warned," McGraw quipped. "I was hoping that it was short, and it was awfully nice. It was so gracious of them to do that for me."
After that, there was work to do — and plenty of of it. Notre Dame's 66-54 win wasn't decided until the fourth quarter.
Penn was within five points with just under two minutes to go in the first half. The margin was 33-26 at halftime, and 42-34 after three quarters.
Notre Dame (9-1) finally broke the game open in the final frame, led by star guard Arike Ogunbowale, who scored 13 of her 20 points in the last 10 minutes.
"We came out here to compete and play at the highest level, and we knew their guards are as good as we're going to see," Quakers coach Mike McLaughlin said. "We managed it. Their physicality didn't bother us. Their speed didn't really bother us. When they got in the open court, they're just really good."
Lauren Whitlatch led Penn (2-4) with 18 points, all from three-point range. Quakers star forward Michell Nwokedi, meanwhile, scored just four points on 2-for-14 shooting.