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ND Women’s Basketball

Irish clinch double bye in ACC tournament with win over Wake Forest

| Friday, February 19, 2016

It was hardly in doubt, but No. 2 Notre Dame made things official Thursday night, clinching a top-four finish and double-bye in the upcoming ACC tournament with an 86-52 road win over Wake Forest.

The Irish (25-1, 13-0) never trailed against the Demon Deacons (15-12, 6-8) as sophomore forward Kathryn Westbeld scored on a layup 38 seconds into the game, establishing an edge for the Irish that would eventually swell to 34 points late in the fourth quarter.

Westbeld finished the game with 10 points and was one of our four Irish players to hit double figures, but it was her classmate, forward Brianna Turner, who led the team on the night, racking up 19 points and 11 rebounds for her second double-double of the season.

“I was really happy with [Turner] because she was a lot more aggressive offensively tonight,” Irish head coach Muffet McGraw said. “We were looking for her, and we got some mismatches inside. And we were able to take advantage of them.

“She really had an offensive mindset, and she was 7-for-7 from the free-throw line, which we were very happy with.”

Of her 11 rebounds, Turner hauled down four offensive boards to lead all players. All told, the Irish scored 10 second-chance points, compared to four for Wake Forest.

Turner recorded 14 of her points and seven of her rebounds in the first half, nearly matching the Demon Deacons on the boards, 9-7. Her dominance inside was hardly surprising, McGraw said, as the Irish planned to feed her early and often against the nation’s 169th-ranked defense.

“The high-low was working for her, the guards were looking for her, we ran a lot of plays specifically to get it into to her, and she did a really good job with them,” McGraw said.

Turner also recorded three blocks in the game, bringing her season total to 69. Despite missing six games due to a shoulder injury, Turner ranks 19th in the nation in blocked shots and ninth in program history for blocked shots in a season. Her average of 3.45 blocks per game would also set a program record.

By the game’s midpoint, the Irish were already up 41-22, and Turner played just nine minutes in the second half as McGraw turned to her bench. Irish reserves scored 42 points in the game, compared to just seven for the Demon Deacons.

Notre Dame’s top scorer off the bench and second-leading scorer overall was freshman guard Arike Ogunbowale. McGraw has praised Ogunbowale repeatedly this season for her aggressive, hard-charging style of play, and she kept that up against Wake Forest, committing two charging fouls and one other turnover but also putting up 16 points in just 23 minutes of play.

“Arike is playing very well off the bench. She’s fearless,” McGraw said. “She’s been incredibly efficient in the last six games. … She didn’t take a lot of shots but she scored a lot of points. She’s shooting the ball very well.”

Irish freshman guard Arike Ogunbowale floats a shot while driving the lane during Notre Dame's 90-69 win over Miami (Fla.) on Sunday at Purcell Pavilion.Caitlyn Jordan | The Observer

Irish freshman guard Arike Ogunbowale floats a shot while driving the lane during Notre Dame’s 90-69 win over Miami (Fla.) on Sunday at Purcell Pavilion.

Ogunbowale was 7-for-12 from the field and a perfect 2-for-2 from the free throw line Thursday. Midway through the second quarter, she connected on four straight jumpers to aid the Irish in a 10-2 run that put them up 36-18.

In the frontcourt, junior forward Kristina Nelson also saw plenty of time on the court in the second half, playing 11 minutes over the final two quarters. With Turner resting on the bench, the Irish offense continued to feed the post, as Nelson ended the night with 10 points, four rebounds and one assist, all in the second half.

Those 10 points tied a career high for Nelson, who missed all of last season while recovering from shoulder surgery, and McGraw singled out her performance after the game.

“She played very well. Very happy with her,” McGraw said.

With the victory, Notre Dame secured a double-bye in the ACC conference tournament, which will take place in just under two weeks in Greensboro, North Carolina. The Irish have now secured that double-bye in each of its three seasons in the ACC and has yet to drop a conference tournament game.

Before that, however, the Irish have one final away game in the 2015-2016 campaign before returning to Purcell Pavilion for a pair of ACC games to close the regular-season slate.

This Monday, Notre Dame will travel to Tallahassee, Florida, to face Florida State, who currently sits in third place in the ACC. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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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.

Contact Greg