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ND Women’s Basketball

Notre Dame looks for hot start on road at Boston College

| Thursday, January 14, 2016

The two best 3-point shooting teams in the ACC will go head-to-head tonight as No. 3 Notre Dame travels to Boston College for the 1,200th game in program history.

For the Irish (15-1, 4-0 ACC), the game marks the beginning of the second half of the regular season, having reached the halfway point with only one defeat, to No. 1 Connecticut. Notre Dame is currently one of only two teams undefeated in ACC play, along with No. 23 Louisville. The Irish come into the game after comfortable wins over Virginia and North Carolina by 28 and 34 points, respectively, and Irish head coach Muffet McGraw said her team’s defensive performance in both outings was a particular highlight.

Freshman guard Arike Ogunbowale surveys the action during Notre Dame’s 74-39 victory over Toledo on Nov. 18 at Purcell Pavilion. Ogunbowale had nine points and six rebounds in the win.Kathryne Robinson | The Observer

Freshman guard Arike Ogunbowale surveys the action during Notre Dame’s 74-39 victory over Toledo on Nov. 18 at Purcell Pavilion. Ogunbowale had nine points and six rebounds in the win.

“I feel really good about where we are right now,” McGraw said. “We played two very good games. The last two specifically, against Virginia and North Carolina, we played very well defensively. I think we’ve been really focused, we’ve rebounded well. And my main concern was that before that we hadn’t been playing as well defensively, so I’m happy to have really concentrated on that area and improved there.

“I’m hoping to see more of the same things defensively that I saw against Virginia and North Carolina. I think every game in the ACC is tough, especially on the road, so we really need to be ready defensively.”

The Eagles (12-3, 0-2) started strong, losing only one nonconference game to No. 14 Oklahoma but have yet to record a win over conference opposition this season, losing by more than 20 points to both Virginia Tech and No. 16 Florida State. Recent history is on the side of the Irish, who have won the last six contests between the two teams by an average of 36.7 points.

While Notre Dame enters the game as the nation’s leader in 3-point field goal percentage with a 44.5 percent mark, on course for the highest number of 3-pointers in program history and the best 3-point percentage since the national championship-winning 2000-2001 season, the Eagles have proven to be formidable perimeter shooters as well. The Eagles have converted 38.2 percent of their 3-point shots, with junior guard Kelly Hughes making 44 of her 101 attempts this season. However, McGraw said Boston College’s inside game, led by freshman center Mariella Fassoula, cannot be overlooked either.

“They’re a little different from last year,” McGraw said. “They’re a very good 3-point shooting team, Kelly Hughes is one of the best guards in this league, she’s a great 3-point shooter. She’s been deadly from the 3-point line, but they’ve added Mariella Fassoula, a post player who’s been deadly, she just won ACC rookie of the week, she’s about [6-foot-4] and really playing well inside. She gives them a really good inside-outside combination and that’s what makes them extremely dangerous.”

McGraw said the balanced Irish offense should be key for her team tonight. Through 16 games, four players are averaging more than double figures scoring per contest, while two more average more than nine points. McGraw said freshman guards Marina Mabrey and Arike Ogunbowale have played a major part in providing that offensive balance.

“Offensively we’ve been very consistent, and the freshmen have really been contributing so far,” McGraw said. “They’re looking really comfortable now, and they just seem to keep getting better every single game.

“The thing that’s been good for us is that we’ve been balanced. We often have four or five people in double figures and our lead scorer only getting 14 or 15 in a particular game because we’ve really been sharing the ball well. I don’t think you can focus on one person when everyone’s shooting the ball well. I’m really happy about the way we’re sharing things.”

McGraw said she hopes to see the Irish start well, something she believes has not happened often enough this season.

“I think it’s so important that we set a tone early in the game,” McGraw said. “That’s something that we haven’t done yet. We haven’t really come out of the gate yet with a lot going on, so that’s something I’d still like us to improve on: getting off to a good start.”

The game tips off at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Conte Forum in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts.

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About Daniel O'Boyle

Daniel O'Boyle is a senior sports writer living in Alumni Hall, majoring in Political Science. He is currently on the Notre Dame Women's Basketball, Men's Tennis and Women's Soccer beats. Originally from Belfast, Northern Ireland, Daniel spends most of his free time attempting to keep up with second-flight English soccer and his beloved Reading FC. He believes Lonzo Ball is the greatest basketball player of all time.

Contact Daniel