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ND Women’s Basketball

Irish edge out Tar Heels

| Thursday, January 15, 2015

Behind pinpoint second-half shooting and dominant post play, No. 7 Notre Dame pulled away for a pivotal, 89-79, conference road win against No. 12 North Carolina on Thursday night.

Freshman forward Brianna Turner led the way for the Irish (16-2, 4-1 ACC), tying or setting career highs in points (29), rebounds (18) and blocked shots (7). She shot 76.9 percent from the field and helped the squad outscore the Tar Heels (15-3, 2-2) in the paint, 48-22.

In a game that featured wild swings in momentum, with each team taking turns leading by more than 10 points, Turner provided a solid presence inside, collecting four rebounds and two points in Notre Dame’s final 9-0 run.

“She was phenomenal,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “She got every rebound, especially down the stretch, when we absolutely had to have the ball. She did a really great job of rolling off the pick and roll. She got really great shots, and she was very active defensively. I was really, really pleased with her performance.”

Irish freshman forward Brianna Turner during Notre Dame’s 104-29 win over Holy Cross on Nov. 23 at Purcell Pavilion.Michael Yu | The Observer

Irish freshman forward Brianna Turner during Notre Dame’s 104-29 win over Holy Cross on Nov. 23 at Purcell Pavilion.

This effort marks the third time in the past four games that Turner has scored at least 20 points, and it also stands as her fourth career double-double.

“She’s exceeded our expectation,” McGraw said. “We expected her to lead us in rebounding, but to be scoring the way she is, it’s really just what we needed. So we’ve been able to count on her.”

Turner was key down the stretch for Notre Dame, but early on, down 11 with five minutes left to play in the first half, the Irish appeared to be reliving their poor-shooting performance from Jan. 8, when they fell on the road to Miami, 78-63. At one point, the squad missed seven of nine shots.

Junior guard Jewell Loyd, who leads the Irish in scoring, had just four points in the first half, and the team shot more than eight percent lower from the field than its season average.

“[Jewell] is definitely the focal point of their defense for sure,” McGraw said. “But she was just so smart tonight. She had six assists and really was able to hit Brianna Turner on the pick and roll. She probably could’ve taken more shots, but she is just so happy to pass the ball. She just wants to win. That’s all that matters to her.”

However, Notre Dame entered the break up by three, largely due to the first part of a career night from sophomore guard Lindsay Allen. Allen scored 16 of her career-high 24 points in the first stanza, including nine in the final four minutes.

“She just really managed the game,” McGraw. “She ran the team … and scored. She saw some great opportunities off the pick and roll, and she had a really great floor game, too.

“This year, we’ve asked her to score more. We’ve asked her to look for her shots more, and she’s been doing it with very good results.”

Lindsay AllenWei Lin | The Observer

Lindsay Allen

Throughout the second half, the Irish extended their lead, taking advantage of constant whistles that put them in the bonus with more than eight minutes to play. The Tar Heels had eight players pick up two or more personal fouls and trailed by 11 halfway through the period.

“I thought we fouled too much [in the second half], but we also took advantage of getting to the free-throw line too,” McGraw said. “It was a little bit of an ugly game, a very physical game, and I was proud of the way we showed our resilience.

“We were tough. We were down 10, then we fought back. We got up 10, and they fought back, and we played with great poise down the stretch.”

Led by sophomore guard Allisha Gray, North Carolina scrambled its way back into the game in the final minutes, in large part due to the squad’s 3-point shooting. On the night, the Tar Heels shot better from long range (39.1 percent) than from the field (37.3).

However, Turner and Allen provided the final push Notre Dame needed to take the win. Overall, the Irish shot 63 percent in the second half and 73.3 percent from the line on the game, including several key makes down the stretch.

The Irish also benefitted from the return of sophomore forward Taya Reimer. Reimer, who had missed the team’s last two games due to unspecified personal reasons, did not start but contributed 20 minutes off the bench and chipped in seven rebounds, second on the team, to go with four points.

“She played well. I don’t think we would have won the game without her,” McGraw said. “She had some huge rebounds down the stretch.”

Reimer had only recently returned to practice, and in her place, McGraw chose to start senior guard Madison Cable, who played 30 minutes, scored seven points and grabbed six boards. After the game, McGraw said she was unsure if and when Reimer might return to the starting lineup.

“I don’t know what we’re going to do,” she said. “We’ve got a lot of options now, which is a good thing. So it’ll be game-to-game based on how we want to defend.”

With a tie for second place in the conference secured, Notre Dame returns from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, to face No. 6 Tennessee at home Monday.

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About Greg Hadley

Greg Hadley is a senior from Rockville, Maryland, majoring in political science with a minor in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. He served as The Observer's Editor-in-Chief for the 2015-2016 term and currently covers Notre Dame baseball and women's basketball.

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