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ND Women’s Basketball

Big second quarter pushes Irish ahead of Tar Heels

| Monday, January 23, 2017

Irish head coach Muffet McGraw won her 750th game at Notre Dame with a 77-55 victory over North Carolina, thanks to a dominant second quarter and junior forward Brianna Turner’s 24 points, 12 rebounds and six blocks.

With junior forward Kathryn Westbeld injured, the Irish (18-3, 6-1 ACC) chose to go with a four guard lineup, as junior guard Mychal Johnson earned the third start of her career. The Tar Heels (12-8, 1-6 ACC) were shorthanded in the frontcourt as well, however, missing redshirt senior forward Hillary Fuller.

Irish junior forward Brianna Turner positions in front of the ball-handler in Notre Dame’s 72-61 loss to UConn on Dec. 7.Allison Culver | The Observer

Irish junior forward Brianna Turner positions in front of the ball-handler in Notre Dame’s 72-61 loss to UConn on Dec. 7 at Purcell Pavilion.

The Irish had offensive success in the first quarter, sinking 10-of-17 field goal attempts including 3-of-5 from 3-point range and making seven assists, but struggled to keep the Tar Heels out of reach, as the quarter ended with the Irish leading by 24-21.

The Irish took over defensively in the second quarter, however. The Tar Heels took 16 shots including seven 3-point attempts, but could only score six points in the period while the Irish offense continued to roll, guiding Notre Dame to a 47-27 halftime lead. Turner said the successful second half was driven by transition opportunities.

“In the second quarter we got a lot of transition, and we’re really good in transition so it was just about getting rebounds and running the floor,” Turner said. “They’re a really quick team so it was a very fast-paced quarter, we got a lot of shots up and they went in.”

The Tar Heels offense in the first half was driven almost entirely by redshirt sophomore guard Paris Kea, who scored 17 of her team’s 27 points on her way to finishing the game with 21 points. McGraw said her team struggled with dealing with Kea early on and may have allowed even more points had she had the help of Fuller inside.

“Kea was a huge problem,” McGraw said. “We had no answer for her. She scored in a lot of different ways: she drove it, she shot it, she posted us up. She’s a really talented player and with her agility playing anywhere from 1-4 that’s a really tough matchup for us. I think the way they stretch you with their shooters, if they had had that inside presence it would have been really tough and Fuller gave them that. I think they’re a really good team, they’ve got talent and they play hard. We couldn’t go zone which is what we wanted to do, and we’re not that great in man-to-man yet.”

The Irish protected their lead for the remainder of the game, not letting North Carolina close the gap to within 15 points. The Irish shooters cooled down in the second half, and shot only 4-of-15 from the floor in the fourth quarter, but McGraw said she wasn’t concerned as the team continued to generate good shots and compete for rebounds.

“We’re getting good shots,” McGraw said. “I thought Jackie Young in particular got a lot of good shots, but they didn’t drop. But we kept battling, and that’s what I want to see. I want to see battling for the rebound and I thought we did that.”

In addition to leading the team in scoring, Turner had a standout performance defensively, tying a season-high with six blocks, bringing her to 48 blocks on the season. The Irish out-rebounded the Tar Heels 43-32 and outscored their opponents 46-20 in the paint while North Carolina’s frontcourt combined to score only four points. McGraw said Turner’s success in scoring came down to the rest of the team’s ability to get the ball to her.

“We want to [give the ball to Turner] every game, but we have some people that are also open on the perimeter, so we were trying to get them to look inside first this time, and I think that’s something we can continue to work on,” McGraw said.

The Irish will return to Purcell Pavilion for only their third home matchup of their last 13 games, hosting No. 15 Duke. The game begins at 7 p.m.

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About Daniel O'Boyle

Daniel O'Boyle is a sophomore 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 supports the Philadelphia Eagles because they were good in 2010 and has had to deal with disappointment every year since. He supports the Golden State Warriors because they are good now and will abandon them when they stop being good.

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