ND Women’s Basketball
Irish come from behind to beat Orange on road
Renee Griffin | Monday, February 20, 2017
Despite trailing for 78 percent of the game, and by as many as 13 points, No. 7 Notre Dame pulled out an 85-80 win over No. 21 Syracuse at the Carrier Dome on Sunday night, powered by 44 Irish rebounds and a career-best 31 points from junior forward Brianna Turner.
The final rebound tally for Notre Dame (25-3, 13-1 ACC) was more than double the number Syracuse (18-9, 9-5) was able to haul in. That translated to 22 second-chance points compared to Syracuse’s three.
Freshman guard Jackie Young paced the Irish with 12 rebounds, made possible because of the Orange’s eagerness to shoot from beyond the arc — they sank 46.2 percent of their 3-pointers on the day. Turner added nine rebounds, just missing a double-double.
The Orange took advantage of the charged home crowd, more than 11,000 strong, by making their first ten shots, including three 3-pointers, for a 20-8 lead.
“They came out really smoking,” Irish head coach Muffet McGraw said of Syracuse. “They really shut the lights out in the first quarter, and I was a little disappointed in our defense.”
Notre Dame trailed for the entirety of the first half, plagued by turnovers and unable to slow the Orange onslaught. Ultimately, the Irish entered halftime down 43-35 — just the second time this season Notre Dame has trailed at the half, the other being its sole ACC loss to North Carolina State on Dec. 29.
Orange senior guards Alexis Peterson and Brittney Sykes paced their team with 19 points each, while two other Orange players contributed 18.
“The thing that makes them hard to guard is they can put it on the ground, and they can shoot 3s,” McGraw said of the pair of guards. “We have the best backcourt in the league, but they definitely have one of the best in the league also.”
Nevertheless, Notre Dame adjusted after the break, continuing to dominate the boards and the paint while making changes to slow down Syracuse’s attack.
“They didn’t really cool off too much until the second half,” McGraw said. “ … We used everything in our book [on defense], and I thought it kept them a little off balance.”
Notre Dame finally tied it up midway through the third quarter on one of Turner’s many layups of the night. However, it took just a few seconds for the Irish to be behind again by four, and then by seven a couple minutes later. Several Irish players missed shots and committed fouls in that span.
Heading into the final quarter, McGraw’s squad was down by four yet again.
But the fourth was a different story: the Irish went off on a 10-0 run, and at last took their first lead of the day with eight minutes remaining. The Orange had no answer for Turner, who shot 13-of-14 overall Sunday.
However, Syracuse would not just go away — the Orange stayed close and sunk a 3-point shot with 36 seconds remaining to narrow the Irish lead to four.
An Orange attempt at a trick play failed, but several missed free throws by Notre Dame (and made free throws by Peterson) kept the home team’s hopes alive until there were 11 seconds left and the Irish had a one-point lead.
Syracuse fouled Notre Dame sophomore guard Marina Mabrey, who finished with 22 points, and she sank both free throws. Peterson then missed a 3 and Turner snagged the rebound to effectively secure the Irish win.
McGraw said along with mixing up the defensive plans, getting the ball to Turner was key to taking the game back.
The victory was crucial to Notre Dame keeping its spot at the top of the ACC standings, and staying in contention for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament in March.
McGraw said the team had known the importance of winning at the Carrier Dome all along.
“This was a game I was really worried about,” McGraw said. “This is the game you look at on the schedule and you think maybe this was the most important game of the year. We had to win this game. There’s a lot of pressure on us to hold on to first place. I’ll tell you, it was tough.”