SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Rather than shy away from the past, members of the Notre Dame women's basketball team stood shoulder to shoulder before Wednesday's game against Michigan State and stared down a reminder.
Except the history that flashed before their eyes on the video board above the court in South Bend wasn't from the past weekend in Hartford, when a double-digit fourth-quarter lead against top-ranked Connecticut evaporated. They had already dissected those images earlier this week in private.
The Fighting Irish, who hadn't played a home game in nearly a month, instead watched a tribute celebrating coach Muffet McGraw's recent enshrinement in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. They watched from the court as a banner was unfurled from the rafter to commemorate the honor.
Though a coincidence of timing, the message couldn't have been clearer: Too much has been earned here to let a season go to waste wallowing in a forgettable quarter.
Notre Dame responded with a 90-59 win against Michigan State that wasn't as close as even that score. The Fighting Irish looked like the championship contender that pushed the Huskies, not a team that limped home with its confidence in tatters. And as little as they had to do with the victory, two shots from Jackie Young spoke volumes about where this team goes from here.
Arike Ogunbowale led the Irish with 23 points, shooting more efficiently (7-of-15 from the field) than she did under duress in Sunday's loss (8-of-25). Jessica Shepard scored the first points of the win, posting up Notre Dame transfer Taya Reimer and bulling her way to the basket, and finished with 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting.
There was no UConn hangover.
"I was a little bit worried," McGraw said. "We're coming into final exams, we finally get to play at home, and I wanted to be sure we came out ready. I thought we were able to do that. I think that was just so important that we set a tone right at the beginning of the game. For a team like that, you want to get them down early."
But the opponent that mattered wasn't the Spartans. The Big Ten team was ancillary once the Fighting Irish led by 14 points after one quarter and 31 points after the first half. The opponents who mattered were Sunday's ghosts.
No one had more reason to fear them than Young, the sophomore whose breakout season thudded to a halt against UConn when she totaled four fouls and two points.
Midway through the first quarter Wednesday, as the lead mounted, Young caught a pass and squared up on the left wing. In a low rumble, the crowd offered its encouragement to shoot. The space provided by the defender spoke to a scouting report that said she wouldn't. Rather than risk Young, who got to the line six times against the Spartans and leads the Fighting Irish in free throw attempts, getting into the lane, the defense gave her the shot.
She didn't take it.
As the defensive position suggested, this was no surprise. In her first 41 college games, Young attempted 35 shots from the 3-point line. She made a decent percentage of that small sample size a season ago, but entering Wednesday's game, she had missed all six attempts this year.
"It was starting to get mental," Young said. "I would only take like one a game, and if I would miss, I wouldn't shoot again. That's the wrong mindset to have. You miss 100 percent of the shots you don't take. I just knew tonight they were going to sag off me. I learned after playing UConn that that's what they were going to do. They were giving me the open 3, so I just have to be confident enough to take that shot."
She didn't take that first opportunity, but she took the next one. She made it. And the one after that. Each in rhythm and without hesitation en route to 13 points. A prolific high school scorer whose prep duels with current Indiana University star Tyra Buss were the stuff of Hoosier legend, Young is a capable shooter. It just isn't the best part of her offensive repertoire -- and the best part already made her an able running mate for Ogunbowale at times this season. Young, for instance, did just fine inside the 3-point arc with 22 points in a win against then-No. 3 South Carolina.
Young has played under pressure before. Those games against Buss in high school filled gyms and emptied their respective towns along the border between Indiana and Illinois. The players needed security escorts to get through the throngs to the court, Young recalled.
But in that setting, she knew her role. She was always the best player on any team in those moments. If she wasn't looking to score at every opportunity, she wasn't helping her team. It was simple.
It is more complicated as a young player on one of the best teams in college basketball.
"I think last year I would just sit back and let the upperclassmen do it," Young said. "I learned that wasn't what Coach wanted me to do. She recruited me -- I was a scorer in high school, and that's what she wants me to do here."
It's not all McGraw expects of her, Young hastened to add. She proved to be something of a defensive stopper as a freshman and must continue that role for a team with limited depth. She could be more vocal, too. She is far from a finished product, and she was far from the team's best player Wednesday. Early in the fourth quarter, Young whipped a one-handed pass that sailed several feet over its intended target. She looked over to the bench, guilt etched across her face, and soon ended up on the bench as McGraw high-fived Ogunbowale after another field goal.
"I just want her to be more aggressive," McGraw said of Young. "I want her to shoot the ball more. I don't think five shots [against Michigan State] is nearly enough for her. I thought she passed up a number of shots. I think she needs to be a little bit more aggressive. When we talk about we want to feed the post, she's one that really listens and takes that to heart."
And yet Young took those two 3-pointers, and then attempted another that she missed late in the game. She didn't have to take them. A player whose confidence was shaken Sunday wouldn't have taken those shots Wednesday.
"We just took some time individually to think about the game and what we could have done," Young said of the time between games. "But we don't want to dwell on that too much because it will affect us in the future. We had a good film session on Monday and then we were able to get back at it on Tuesday."
McGraw said she was glad the lights were off during the video montage before the game, that she thought back to when she could count the people in the stands during the national anthem and still have time left before the music stopped. It hasn't been like that in a long time.
It hasn't been a place where people wallow in disappointment or doubt their own ability.
If those two 3-pointers are any indication, it still isn't.