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ND Women’s Basketball

Notre Dame returns to ACC action

| Wednesday, January 21, 2015

On the heels of a win over No. 5 Tennessee, the No. 6 Irish resume their conference slate Thursday with a matchup against Georgia Tech at 7 p.m. at Purcell Pavilion.

Notre Dame (17-2, 4-1 ACC) took down Tennessee (15-3, 5-0 SEC), 88-77, Monday at Purcell Pavilion in front of a national audience. The win was the first for the Irish this season against a top-five opponent and a victory Notre Dame needed moving forward, Irish coach Muffet McGraw said.

“I think it’s a great win for us,” McGraw said after Monday’s game. “We’ve have some good wins this year already with Florida State and at North Carolina, so it looks like we’re really starting to gel. We hoped that we would be playing well heading into the conference race and certainly by February, so maybe we’re a little ahead of schedule right now.”

Irish sophomore guard Lindsay Allen brings the ball up the court during Notre Dame’s 88-77 win over Tennessee on Monday at Purcell Pavilion.Jodi Lo | The Observer

Irish sophomore guard Lindsay Allen brings the ball up the court during Notre Dame’s 88-77 win over Tennessee on Monday at Purcell Pavilion.

The next step in that conference race is a Georgia Tech squad that has dropped two in a row. The Yellow Jackets (12-7, 2-3 ACC) lost, 96-81, to No. 12 North Carolina on Jan. 11 and fell in overtime to Pittsburgh on Sunday, 75-72.

Georgia Tech lost another heartbreaker, 79-73 in overtime against then-No. 16 Michigan State on Dec. 4. The team’s last win came Jan. 8, a narrow 80-77 victory over ACC foe Boston College.

The Yellow Jackets field a young roster with six freshmen, two sophomores, three juniors and just one senior. Two of those underclassmen, however, have stepped up to be among the team’s leading scorers.

Sophomore guard Kaela Davis has tallied a team-best 20.5 points per game, the third best average in the ACC behind Irish junior guard Jewell Loyd at 20.8 points per game and Wake Forest senior forward Dearica Hamby’s 20.7. Davis, along with Loyd and Hamby, was named to the preseason top-30 watch list for the Wooden Award, annually given to the country’s top player.

Freshman forward Zaire O’Neil also has stepped up to record 10.9 points per game, fourth best for Georgia Tech, and freshman guard Antonia Peresson has started 16 games.

Senior guard Sydney Wallace (13.1) and junior guard/forward Aaliyah Whiteside (12.7) round out the Yellow Jackets’ double-figure scorers.

Irish freshman forward Kathryn Westbeld drives to the hoop during Notre Dame’s 88-77 win over  Tennessee on Monday at Purcell Pavilion.Jodi Lo | The Observer

Irish freshman forward Kathryn Westbeld drives to the hoop during Notre Dame’s 88-77 win over
Tennessee on Monday at Purcell Pavilion.

The Irish had little time to rest after Monday’s win over Tennessee, but McGraw said she was excited for the opportunities offered by the tight scheduling.

“It’s great to be able to win and still have a lot of things to work on, so it’s a fun position for a coach to be in, so we can still show them some film and show them some things they need to work on, and I think they’re hungry to keep getting better,” McGraw said.

Against the Volunteers in the first half, the Irish struggled on the boards and were out-rebounded but turned things around in the second half. Against Georgia Tech, they’ll have to deal with junior forward Roddreka Rogers, who has averaged 9.7 rebounds per game, including an 18-rebound performance Jan. 4 against Clemson in the Yellow Jackets’ first ACC win this season and two straight double-figure performances.

Loyd has spurred the charge for Notre Dame, scoring at her ACC-leading clip. But the Irish have not been one-dimensional.

Freshman forward Brianna Turner, sophomore guard Lindsay Allen, sophomore forward Taya Reimer and junior guard Michaela Mabrey also have led as starters, and Notre Dame’s bench has been active. After the Tennessee game in particular, McGraw noted the efforts of senior guard Madison Cable, saying Cable’s competitiveness and “feisty” style were key to the win, along with Reimer’s play inside.

“That’s the great thing about this team. It’s not a one-man team or a two-man team,” McGraw said. “We’ve got a lot of good players.”

Notre Dame tips off at 7 p.m. Thursday against Georgia Tech at Purcell Pavilion, kicking off a string of 11 straight ACC matchups for the Irish.

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