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ND Women’s Basketball

Notre Dame pulls away from North Carolina A&T to start NCAA tournament

| Saturday, March 19, 2016

No. 1-seed Notre Dame had no trouble advancing to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, putting away No. 16 seed North Carolina A&T by a score of 95-61 Saturday at Purcell Pavilion.

The Irish (32-1, 16-0 ACC) grabbed the lead after just 14 seconds, thanks to a 3-pointer from senior guard Michaela Mabrey. It was a lead the Irish would never relinquish, adding four more quick points without an Aggie (19-12, 12-4 MEAC) reply under 90 seconds in.

The Irish continued to cruise, taking a 25-13 lead into the end of the first quarter, with two steals in quick succession from junior guard Lindsay Allen and sophomore forward Brianna Turner each leading to layups for freshman guard Marina Mabrey, among the early highlights.

“We haven’t played for a while so it was really important for us to come out, stick to the game plan, be focused and take the game seriously,” graduate student guard Madison Cable said. ”I think we did that so it was a good start for us.”

Irish graduate student guard Madison Cable dribbles around a North Carolina A&T defender during Notre Dame's 95-61 win in the first round of the NCAA tournament Saturday at Purcell Pavilion.Kathleen Donahue | The Observer

Irish graduate student guard Madison Cable dribbles around a North Carolina A&T defender during Notre Dame’s 95-61 win in the first round of the NCAA tournament Saturday at Purcell Pavilion.

In the second quarter, the Irish continued to roll. Each of the first 20 Notre Dame field goals of the game were assisted before a rebound and coast-to-coast layup from sophomore forward Kathryn Westbeld just before the buzzer made the score 52-24 at halftime. The Irish converted 66 percent of their shots in the first half of the game, while, with graduate student center Aprill McRae double-teamed, North Carolina A&T’s opportunities were limited inside, as the Aggies only converted 24 percent of their first-half oppotunities. The Aggies were effective on the offensive glass, however, grabbing 12 rebounds on that end of the court. McGraw said her team’s defensive gameplan was to stop McRae and redshirt junior guard Dana Brown.

“We were trying to guard [Dana] Brown because she is a really good three-point shooter,” McGraw said. “And she did end up shooting 50 percent from the three-point line. I think she got a few of those in the second half when we went zone. We were trying to keep the ball out of the [Aprill] McRae’s hands and Brown’s hands and we did a decent job on McRae. I thought Brianna [Turner] did a pretty good job on her. Brown got loose for some good looks and that was a little bit disappointing. But overall I thought we did a pretty good job.”

Irish sophomore forward Brianna Turner snags a rebound away from a North Carolina A&T player while Irish freshman guard Marina Mabrey looks on during Notre Dame's 95-61 victory Saturday at Purcell Pavilion in the first round of the NCAA tournament.Kathleen Donahue | The Observer

Irish sophomore forward Brianna Turner snags a rebound away from a North Carolina A&T player while Irish freshman guard Marina Mabrey looks on during Notre Dame’s 95-61 victory Saturday at Purcell Pavilion in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

Cable echoed this sentiment, and said the team’s preparation allowed them to shut down North Carolina A&T’s key scorers.

“We just stuck to the scouting report,” Cable said. “We knew who the shooters were and who weren’t so we knew we could lay off a little bit more. They had some big kids that we were focused on keeping out.”

The Irish extended their lead past the 40-point mark in the third quarter, and ended the period with a 80-41 lead. McGraw said she was pleased with how her team played in the first three quarters of the game.

“Twenty assists and six turnovers at halftime. I thought we really came out well. I thought the starters were really well-prepared and we shot the ball really well. I was happy with our zone offense. Really happy with everything in the first three quarters.”

The Aggies began to claw back at that lead into the fourth period though, as Notre Dame turnovers and improved Aggie shooting helped cut the lead back to 30, before the Irish extended the final margin back to 34. McGraw said she believed her team became careless late in the game.

“I think it was a couple of things,” McGraw said. “One, Lindsay Allen was on the bench, and I thought we were just lackadaisical.

“I didn’t think that we were aggressive coming to the ball, I don’t think we were finding the open player. We had some nice spurts where we were able to get it to the middle and the three-point line. But we just got careless. I thought it was really careless. Sloppy and careless.”

Six Notre Dame players ended with double-figure scoring, with Turner leading the way with 16 points, while sophomore guard Mychal Johnson notched a season-high of 12 points. Allen notched 10 assists for the Irish, with eight of them coming before halftime. Turner credited Allen and the rest of the Notre Dame backcourt with helping her score.

“I think we just did a great job scoring inside,” Turner said. “[Lindsay Allen] made some great passes along with the other guards, attacking the basket as well.”

With the win, the Irish advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, where they will face Indiana on Monday at Purcell Pavilion.

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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