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ND Women’s Basketball

Notre Dame stifles Florida State in 100-69 blowout

| Monday, January 29, 2018

In yet another nationally-televised matchup for No. 5 Notre Dame, the Irish came out on top against No. 8 Florida State in a game that quickly turned into a 100-69 blowout.

Coming off a 50-49 win against then-No. 2 Louisville, the Seminoles (18-3, 6-2 ACC) looking for their first-ever victory over Notre Dame (20-2, 8-1), who have gone 6-0 against the Seminoles since joining the ACC. The hype around the big game was at a record-high as 9,498 fans filled the Donald L. Tucker Center — a new Florida State record for a women’s basketball game.

The Irish started off down 3-2 early after giving up a 3-pointer to redshirt-senior guard Imani Wright. The Irish would then go on to take the lead and never look back. Junior guard Arike Ogunbowale scored on her first three field goal attempts for the Irish as she led them to a 17-8 lead with just under five minutes left in the first quarter. Notre Dame then jumped to a 21-10 lead with 2:57 left to play in the opening period, to help close out the quarter on a 16-6 run. After 10 minutes, the Irish led 29-14 after outscoring Florida State 22-2 in the paint.

Chris Collins | The Observer

Irish senior forward Kathryn Westbeld goes up for a layup during Notre Dame’s 84-70 win over Tennessee on Jan. 18 at Purcell Pavilion.

Notre Dame’s defense kicked it up a notch in the beginning of the second quarter after holding Florida State scoreless on 0-7 from the field in the first four minutes of the period. The Irish jumped to a 35-14 lead in that time before finally conceding two free throws from sophomore guard Nicole Ekhomu. The Seminoles then sparked a 7-0 run that was abruptly iced by an Ogunbowale 3-pointer that sparked Notre Dame’s own 7-0 run.

At the half, the Irish led 48-29 on a 59 percent field-goal shooting. The Irish out-rebounded the Seminoles 26 to 21 in the first half and tallied seven more assists than the Seminoles. Florida State’s leading scorer, senior forward Shakayla Thomas, came in averaging 18.5 points per game but went 0-for-11 in the first half. She would finish the game 3-for-18 with eight points and 10 rebounds.

Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw had praise for her team’s ability to follow the game plan to contain Thomas.

“[Thomas] is a great player, we tried to double team her as much as possible when she got the ball on the block. I think she just missed some shots she normally makes, also,” McGraw said. “I think the double team forced a few turnovers and I felt a great awareness of where she was all the time.”

Senior forward Kathryn Westbeld had 11 points and seven rebounds in the first half for the Irish. She would finish the game with a career-high 21 points on 8-for-11 shooting, also gathering up 12 boards through four quarters. Westbeld acknowledged how important it was to start the game strong especially after the loss to Louisville earlier this month.

“I think we definitely learned from the Louisville game,” Westbeld said. “But, I think we have definitely moved on from that. I think, this game, we were focused on setting the tone and not letting the other team set the tone for us. So, that start to the game really got us going.”

McGraw praised Westbeld for her efforts and also commented on Westbeld’s role in keeping the team calm and collected.

“I was very pleased with the way we executed today, I thought Kathryn Westbeld was phenomenal,” McGraw said. “She was an All-American, double-double, she was not going to let us lose this game today. … Kathryn is in charge of [keeping the team calm], she’s the glue for us. If they press or give us trouble in the backcourt — she ran the offense quite a bit tonight. I thought she did a really great job making decisions. She is a calming presence for us, and I thought — on the road and in front of this crowd — we showed a lot of poise.”

The second half of the game was more of the same as the Irish outscored the Seminoles 52-40 in the final two quarters. Notre Dame reached their game-high lead of 34 points after a pair of free throws from junior guard Marina Mabrey late in the fourth quarter made it 91-57.

Wright was the brightest spot for Florida State, scoring a game-high 23 points on 9-for-17 shooting in 39 minutes of action. Collectively, the Seminoles shot 33.3 percent from the field and 28.6 line from behind the 3-point line. This was the first time Florida State has allowed 100 points since Jan. 27, 2002, when it lost to Duke.

The Irish, who have four players out for the season, have won each of their last five games by over double digits. Furthermore, six members of the Irish scored in double figures including sophomore guard Jackie Young, junior guard Marina Mabrey, junior forward Jessica Shepard and graduate student forward Kristina Nelson. McGraw noted the team is in great shape to compete despite the short rotation.

“We have a short bench but, I thought we looked in pretty good shape — I thought we were running them,” McGraw said. “We’ve got six, seven people. We’re in great shape, we’re playing well together. I think everybody knows they can count on each other.”

The race for ACC supremacy continues as the Irish are tied with Louisville (22-1, 8-1) and Virginia for first in the conference. McGraw acknowledged the difficulty of playing in a conference with three top-10 teams.

“We have three teams [from the ACC] in the top 10,” McGraw said. “We’ve got three great teams, all of us playing great basketball. I think the ACC is incredibly tough conference, if not the toughest, certainly one of them.”

The Irish will next take the court against North Carolina at Purcell Pavilion with tipoff scheduled for 7 p.m.

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