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ND Women’s Basketball

Irish to take on Virginia in ACC tournament quarterfinals

| Friday, March 3, 2017

After a week in which No. 3 Notre Dame secured a fourth regular season ACC title and saw three of its players earn league honors, the Irish will begin their postseason journey Friday at the ACC tournament quarterfinals against Virginia.

With a tournament title, Notre Dame (27-3, 15-1 ACC) would become just the second program to win both the ACC regular season conference championship and the conference tournament for four consecutive years.

Though the Irish are a No. 1 seed yet again, head coach Muffet McGraw said this year’s tourney will be anything but easy.

Irish junior forward Brianna Turner goes up for a layup during Notre Dame’s 80-69 win over Boston College on Jan. 19 at Purcell Pavilion.Kathleen Donahue | The Observer

Irish junior forward Brianna Turner goes up for a layup during Notre Dame’s 80-69 win over Boston College on Jan. 19 at Purcell Pavilion.

“This is absolutely the best ACC since we’ve been in it,” McGraw said. “The talent, unbelievable; the competition is amazing. Seven teams ranked in the top 25 — hoping to get eight in the NCAA tournament, which would be tremendous for us, and I think we certainly deserve it.

“Every game is going to be a battle. You’ve had teams that have had some [injuries] all year long that now are getting healthy. I think everyone is coming into this with a chance to win it.”

However, Notre Dame has the advantage of momentum, coming off a victory over No. 8 Florida State on Sunday that McGraw called “the best game we’ve played all year.”

“Every single starter played well [against the Seminoles],” McGraw said. “ … I’m happy with where we are right now. This is the team we knew we could be. It took us until March to get there, but that’s when you want to be peaking.”

Earlier in the season, there were doubts — even in McGraw’s mind — about whether the squad would fulfill its annual tradition of dominance after a couple of disappointing losses to ACC rival North Carolina State and unranked Tennessee.

“Back in January, after losing to Tennessee, I thought there was no hope for us to get a No. 1 seed. And now we’ve played our way back, haven’t lost since then,” McGraw said. “This year, when we won [the regular season conference title], I was probably more excited than I have been in the past couple years just because we’ve really had to battle, and we had to come from a little bit behind.”

That comeback effort was headlined by senior guard Lindsay Allen and junior forward Brianna Turner, who were both named to the all-ACC first team Tuesday, while guard Jackie Young was named to the conference’s all-freshman squad. On Wednesday, Turner added a second ACC Defensive Player of the Year award to her resume, too.

“I couldn’t be happier for Bri and Lindsay for what they’ve done for us all year long,” McGraw said. “They have been our most consistent players; they have played well in the big games, in every game.”

The quarterfinals matchup with the Cavaliers (19-11, 7-9), who the Irish beat 82-74 on Jan. 29 in their regular season meeting, is next on the list of big games for Allen, Turner and the rest of the team.

“Virginia gave us a really good game here,” McGraw said. “That was a very close game, came down to the wire. … They played really, really well.”

If the Irish defeat Virginia, they will play in the ACC semifinals Saturday and potentially the finals Sunday.

“This is definitely gonna be the toughest three-game schedule we’ve ever had, if we can win the first game,” McGraw said.

Notre Dame takes on Virginia at 2 p.m. Friday at HTC Center in Conway, South Carolina.

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About Renee Griffin

Notre Dame senior, formerly of Farley Hall. Originally from Lake Zurich, IL, majoring in American Studies with a minor in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. Enjoys talkin' about practice.

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