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ND Women’s Basketball

Irish hold off Seminoles for ACC road win

| Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Muffet McGraw has never shied away from speaking her mind.

So following No. 2 Notre Dame’s 73-66 win over No. 12 Florida State on Monday night, in which junior guard Lindsay Allen set a career high with 11 assists, McGraw made a simple statement.

“She’s the best point guard in the country,” McGraw said.

Statistics alone wouldn’t suggest that: Allen averages just 9 points, 5.6 assists and 3.9 rebounds per game. But Allen’s influence extends beyond the stat sheet, McGraw said.

“She’s the reason we are where we are right now,” McGraw said. “She’s unflappable: Whenever the other team makes a run, she never loses her poise. She’s a great defender, got a great handle, can score, and she’s really smart.

That composure under pressure was necessary Monday, as the Irish (26-1, 14-0 ACC) fell behind early against the Seminoles (21-6, 11-3), trailing by five points with fewer than two minutes left in the first quarter.

But before the first period had elapsed, Notre Dame had already rallied to take the lead with a combination of 3-pointers and post play from sophomore forward Brianna Turner.

“[Turner] is so hard to defend inside and off the pick-and-roll,” McGraw said. “And she draws so much attention, it opens things up for the 3-point shooters. We’d like to go to her more, but if she’s jammed up on the inside, we can go to someone on the perimeter.”

Freshman guard Arike Ogunbowale drives to the basket during Notre Dame’s 90-69 victory over Miami at Purcell Pavilion on Feb. 14. Ogunbowale scored 11 points for the Irish during their win against Florida State.Caitlyn Jordan | The Observer

Freshman guard Arike Ogunbowale drives to the basket during Notre Dame’s 90-69 victory over Miami at Purcell Pavilion on Feb. 14. Ogunbowale scored 11 points for the Irish during their win against Florida State.

The Irish broke away in the second quarter, as senior guard Michaela Mabrey and freshmen guards Marina Mabrey and Arike Ogunbowale combined to shoot 5 for 6 from beyond the arc. Meanwhile, the Seminole offense went stagnant, producing only 13 points and failing to score at all for a six-and-a-half-minute-long stretch.

“In the first half, they really were phenomenal [and] got some good looks,” McGraw said. “We needed that because we haven’t been shooting as well from the 3-point line lately. They gave us some open looks, and we took advantage of it.”

Allen posted five of her assists in the first half, four of which led to 3-pointers, and the Irish went into the half with a 43-28 lead.

But after the break, Florida State clawed its way back into the game, outscoring the Irish 22-19 in the third quarter and eventually closing to within five points in the final seconds of the game.

“They had some transition baskets, and they beat us to a couple rebounds,” McGraw said of how the Seminoles rallied. “We took some questionable shots that led to breakaways for them. The transition defense was poor. That was a big problem. Defensively … they made a couple 3s. You have to pick your poison. We thought they really weren’t shooting well from 3 [in the first half].”

Overall, Notre Dame outshot Florida State from the field, 46 to 38 percent, and from the 3-point line, 50 to 31 percent. However, the Seminoles shot 50 percent from 3 in the second half, compared to 25 percent for the Irish.

To make matters worse for McGraw’s squad, Turner fouled out with 2:54 remaining. She left the game with a team-high 15 points.

But just as she had in the first quarter, Allen kept the Irish competitive, sinking two key free throws 30 seconds later to go along with two assists in the quarter.

Turner, Ogunbowale, Mabrey and graduate student guard Madison Cable all ended the game with more than 10 points, while Allen had just six. That low scoring output is part of the reason few on the national stage consider Allen the nation’s top point guard, McGraw said.

“She’s a pass-first point guard. She gives the ball up,” McGraw said. “It’s a shame people only look at scoring.”

With the victory, Notre Dame has a chance to clinch a share of the ACC regular season title this Thursday at home, when the Irish host Clemson at Purcell Pavilion. That opportunity, however, is not motivating Notre Dame too much, McGraw said.

“That’s not our goal. We are not good at sharing,” McGraw said. “We don’t want to think that way.”

Notre Dame and Clemson will face off Thursday at Purcell Pavilion. 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