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ND Women’s Basketball

Irish to get season underway against Mount St. Mary’s

| Friday, November 10, 2017

This Saturday, the No. 6 Notre Dame women’s basketball team will get the 2017-18 season underway when Mount St. Mary’s comes to town for an early afternoon tip-off.

The Irish dominated in their lone preseason game last Wednesday, defeating Indiana University (PA) by a score of 108-40, and they will look to continue that performance in Saturday’s matchup against a Mountaineers team that finished 12-18 last season, finishing in fifth place in the Northeast Conference.

Anna Mason | The Observer

Irish junior guard Arike Ogunbowale drives on an opponent during Notre Dame’s 108-40 win over IUP on Nov. 1 at Purcell Pavilion.

Coming into the game, Notre Dame does not have much to work off of in regards to past experience against Mount St. Mary’s, as the two programs have only met once before, dating back to 1981. Additionally, this year’s Mountaineers are sure to look a bit different than in year’s past, as they are now led by first year head coach Maria Marchesano. Marchesano joins the program from IUPUI where she served as an associate head coach, although she is far from the only new face within their program, as the Mountaineers have added six freshman to this year’s squad. As such, Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw recognizes that her team will need to be prepared for some unfamiliar looks.

“Mount St. Mary’s has a brilliant head coach. She’s a first time head coach so it’s been difficult to get a scouting report because the things they did last year, she will probably make some changes,” McGraw said. “We’re going into the game with an emphasis on really focusing on what we need to do.”

As for what exactly it is that Notre Dame will need to do, the Irish are coming off a season in which the team was able to reach the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament, before suffering a one-point loss to Stanford. With a new year comes new challenges, however, and McGraw has already begun to recognize what areas she needs her team to be focused on for Saturday.

“I think for us, the important thing is, one, we’re trying to work on not turning the ball over and taking care of the ball which has been a little bit of an issue for us in the preseason practice,” McGraw said. “We’re still gelling as a team, trying to figure out what our identity is going to be. Defensively, we need to make some big strides, so I’m hoping that our defense looks a little better than it did last year. We’ve got a little more depth now. We have eight scholarships players, so we will be able to sub a little bit more.”

For Notre Dame, the home court advantage should spell good news as the Irish have won 22 consecutive home openers, their last loss coming at the hands of No. 13 Purdue back in 1994. Coming into this game, there is a possibility of added importance for one player who has the potential to join the 1,000-career point club: junior guard Arike Ogunbowale, who sits at 986 career points entering the season. As the year continues, junior guard Marina Mabrey and senior forward Kathryn Westbeld have the potential to join the distinctive club as well, as the two are sitting at 916 and 792 points, respectively.

Before action gets underway on Saturday, Notre Dame’s Ring of Honor will be gaining a new member as 2014 graduate Kayla McBride will be inducted during a pre-game, on-court ceremony. McBride, who was drafted third overall in the 2014 WNBA draft and named a 2015 All-Star, was part of a bit of a golden era for Notre Dame women’s basketball. The Irish made a final four appearance in each of her four years with the team, and McBride’s senior class recorded the second-most wins (138) of any other class in history.

With the McBride ceremony set for approximately 12:40 p.m., tip-off is expected around 1 p.m. as the Irish embark on the 2017-18 season.

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