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ND Women’s Basketball

Notre Dame pulls away in second half to top Georgia Tech in Pink Game

| Monday, February 12, 2018

Halftime adjustments made the difference for No. 5 Notre Dame on Sunday, as the Irish struggled with Georgia Tech’s full-court press defense for two quarters before pulling away to defeat the Yellow Jackets, 85-69.

Although Georgia Tech scored the opening four points of the game, junior guard Arike Ogunbowale singlehandedly put Notre Dame ahead, scoring the first eight points of the game for the Irish. Three open layups for junior forward Jessica Shepard followed when the Irish beat the Yellow Jackets press to take a 14-9 lead. However, the aggressive Yellow Jackets’ defense soon began to cause problems for the Irish, as Georgia Tech cut the lead to 16-15. But Notre Dame managed to score the final five points of the quarter, and a Mabrey 3-pointer put the score at 21-17 after one.

Sarah Olson | The Observer

Irish junior guard Arike Ogunbowale attempts a layup during Notre Dame’s 94-62 win over North Carolina on Feb. 1 at Purcell Pavilion.

Throughout the second quarter, the Irish continued to struggle with Georgia Tech’s full-court defense, turning the ball over nine times in the period for a total of 15 turnovers at the half. The Yellow Jackets quickly narrowed the lead and pulled ahead themselves for the second time in the game, leading 36-33 late in the half thanks to an 8-0 run in a stretch lasting just 1:16.

However, junior guard Jackie Young ensured the Irish wouldn’t trail at the break, knocking down a jumper with 28 seconds remaining before finding senior forward Kathryn Westbeld under the basket for a reverse layup at the buzzer to tie the score, 39-39.

“I thought it was a huge momentum shift,” Irish head coach Muffet McGraw said of the buzzer-beating basket. “I thought it was a phenomenal pass. Jackie saw her; she was looking to drive it first, then she saw Kat wide open and made an unbelievable pass, and she finished right at the buzzer. That was a great lift for all of us.”

The Irish started the second half the way they ended the first, scoring six more points to extend their run to 10-0 and build a 45-39 lead. The first points of the half came from two free throws by Ogunbowale, who had been held scoreless for 15 minutes of game time after her early eight points. Ogunbowale said she didn’t get too frustrated during her scoreless stretch.

“They just played good defense on me,” Ogunbowale said. “But the rest of the team had some good looks, and sometimes it just made more sense to pass it.”

The Yellow Jackets closed the gap again and trailed by only two points after a jumper from sophomore guard Francesca Pan with four minutes remaining in the third quarter, but the Irish soon put the game out of reach. Another 10-0 run gave the Irish a double-digit lead to end the third quarter, and Notre Dame continued to pull away into the fourth, building a 79-56 lead and winning the game by a final score of 85-69.

Despite her first-half scoring drought, Ogunbowale would lead the Irish in scoring with 27 points, while also adding seven rebounds and five assists. Young put forth a strong effort as well, recording 22 points, seven rebounds, seven assists, five steals and a block.

After the team’s 15th turnover of the game came just seconds into the third quarter, the Irish turned the ball over just three more times for the remainder of the game. Georgia Tech head coach MaChelle Joseph said she felt McGraw’s halftime adjustments, particularly getting the ball to Ogunbowale, made a serious difference in her team’s ability to generate steals.

“I thought that they did a great job at the adjustments,” Joseph said. “They put the ball in Arike’s hands in halfcourt, and she made plays. That’s why she’s one of the best players in the country. I thought she was instrumental in that second half for them.”

“I thought it was a really good second half,” McGraw said. “Interesting that it was a reverse of what happened at Georgia Tech, when we had a really good first half. It was good that we were able to play well in the second half. We really buckled down defensively.

The Irish will travel to Virginia this week, facing the Cavaliers on Thursday night.

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About Daniel O'Boyle

Daniel O'Boyle is a senior 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 believes Lonzo Ball is the greatest basketball player of all time.

Contact Daniel