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ND Women’s Basketball

Notre Dame clinches share of ACC title in win

| Friday, February 26, 2016

No. 2 Notre Dame clinched the No. 1 seed for the ACC tournament and a share of the regular season conference title with its 71-52 victory over Clemson last night.

The Irish took the lead after only seven seconds, with a three-pointer from freshman guard Michaela Mabrey, and did not relinquish it for the rest of the game. However, the victory over the ACC’s last-placed team was not quite as comfortable as hoped. The Irish led only 15-14 with just over a minute left in the first quarter, before extending that lead to 21-14 by the end of the quarter. In the second quarter, the Irish continued to widen the lead, but could not quite put the Tigers completely out of reach, taking a 40-25 lead into the break. Irish head coach Muffet McGraw said she felt the team’s first half  performance left some room for improvement.

“I don’t think we came out extremely well, especially not defensively, and turning the ball over 11 times in the first half, that was really disappointing,” McGraw said. “We’ve got to take better care of the ball, but I think we can play better.”

“After Florida State I would have said we were headed in the right direction, but I think we took a step backwards today.”

In the third quarter, the Irish were able to pull away, as the Tigers made only one of their first 13 shots in the quarter, giving the Irish a 56-27 lead, before a Clemson 3-pointer made the score 56-30 at the end of the quarter. McGraw, however, said she didn’t believe her defense was responsible for shutting the Tigers down.

“I think they just missed shots, I don’t think we did anything differently,” McGraw said. “We were switching up man and zone, we played a little more man, but I don’t think it was that, I think they just missed shots.”

During the fourth quarter, the Irish bench players were able to get plenty of minutes as sophomore forward Brianna Turner, junior guard Lindsay Allen and graduate student guard Madison Cable all sat out. The Tigers were able to take advantage, scoring 22 points in the quarter and closing the gap to 19.

Freshman guard Arike Ogunbowale led the Irish in scoring, with 16 points, while Turner scored 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting and added eight rebounds. McGraw said she was pleased with both players, but would have hoped to see more opportunities for Turner.

Irish freshman guard Arike Ogunbowale drives towards the lane during Notre Dame’s 71-52 win over Clemson on Thursday.Caitlyn Jordan | The Observer

Irish freshman guard Arike Ogunbowale drives towards the lane during Notre Dame’s 71-52 win over Clemson on Thursday.

“I thought we did some really good things, but I thought we could have got [Turner] the ball more. Seven shots just isn’t really enough,” McGraw said “I know she didn’t play a lot but I think we can get her the ball a little bit more. Arike continues to give us great offense coming off the bench, we need that scoring punch, I thought we needed it really badly today. I would have liked to have finished the game a little bit stronger, but overall I thought we did some good things, got to the free throw line made our free throws. But it was a tough game coming off of Florida State.”

The victory ensured the Irish will take the top seed in the ACC tournament next month, as well as at least a share of the regular season title with Louisville. The Irish have a chance to make that an outright title when they host Boston College on Saturday, and McGraw said she would not be satisfied with only a share of the title.

“I’m not interested in sharing,” she said. “We want to win it outright, so we’ve got to get ready and play a lot better than we did tonight to win it.”

McGraw said her focus is already on Saturday and the Eagles, who the Irish beat 63-50 in Chestnut Hill last month.

“We’ve got to be ready for [Boston College],” McGraw said. “They’re a good team, they gave us a great game up there, so we’ve got to really get back, get intense and get focused.”

Turner echoed McGraw’s sentiment, and said freshman center Mariella Fasoula could be a key part of Boston College’s offense.

“Like Coach said, it was kind of a really tough game last time we were up there,” Turner said. “They have a really good post player and I think the key to our success will be to shut her down.”

Notre Dame’s three seniors, Madison Cable, Hannah Huffman and Michaela Mabrey, will all be honored before the game. Tip-off will be at Purcell Pavilion at 1 p.m. Saturday.

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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