ND Women’s Basketball
Notre Dame rolls in first round of NCAA Tournament, dispatches Robert Morris
Mary Green | Saturday, March 22, 2014
TOLEDO, Ohio — If Notre Dame had any first-round jitters, it masked them well as the Irish cruised to a 93-42 victory over Robert Morris to begin the NCAA tournament Saturday at Savage Arena in Toledo, Ohio.
The No. 1 seed Irish (33-0) jumped out an early lead over the No. 16 seed Colonials (21-12), opening the first 11 minutes of the game on a 28-6 run.
The rest of the matchup followed that trend, as the ACC champions never let up, and Robert Morris never picked up enough momentum to make a run that threatened Notre Dame’s lead and perfect season.“In the tournament, you can’t take anyone lightly,” senior forward Ariel Braker said. “Upsets happen all the time. And I think [we had] that mindset coming in, that you still have to play hard to get to where you want to be at the end of the season. So we’re not going to overlook anyone.”
Irish coach Muffet McGraw used her entire lineup in the victory, and bench players contributed 42 of the team’s 93 points.
Sophomore guard Michaela Mabrey led all scorers with 16 points, subbing in five minutes into the game to hit her first three attempts from behind the arc. Eleven of her points came in the first half, which Notre Dame closed with a 50-15 advantage.
“Michaela Mabrey was really critical today, coming off the bench,” McGraw said. “She is always ready to shoot the ball. She shot it extremely well. I think the zone gave her some good looks.”McGraw said junior guard Madison Cable, who was 3-for-4 from 3-point range en route to a 13-point performance, also put in good minutes off the bench for the Irish.
Junior forward Markisha Wright logged 21 minutes in the frontcourt after senior forward Ariel Braker and freshman forward Taya Reimer each picked up two early fouls in the first half.
“I think everyone on the team wants to contribute in some way, and we tell them what their role is, and they all accept their role,” McGraw said. “Markisha Wright didn’t have a lot of points, but she did her job defensively.
“I think that everyone is doing a really good job — they are playing because they all want to win. They are unselfish, and they’ll do what it takes.”
Five Irish players — Mabrey, Cable, Braker (10), senior forward Natalie Achonwa (15) and sophomore guard Jewell Loyd (15) — scored in double figures, while freshman guard Anna Niki Stamolamprou (12 points) was the only Colonial to do so.
Notre Dame repeatedly double- and triple-teamed Robert Morris senior forward Artemis Spanou, limiting the Colonials’ leading scorer to seven points, well below her season average of 19.8.
Braker, Loyd and Cable helped the Irish take a 45-22 advantage on the glass, an area in which the team has struggled throughout the season. Braker and Cable each grabbed eight rebounds, while Loyd hauled in seven more.“Rebounding is a big part of our game, and when shots aren’t falling, we obviously have to rebound,” Braker said. “Everyone just has that mindset. Rebounding is effort, and everyone just had really good effort getting to the boards today.”
Notre Dame will look to take that effort into its second-round contest against No. 9 seed Arizona State, which advanced after defeating Vanderbilt, 69-61, on Saturday.
Redshirt sophomore guard Katie Hempen led the Sun Devils (23-9, 11-7 Pac-12) with 16 points off the bench, while three of her teammates also reached double figures.
“ASU is a team that is so balanced, you can’t key in on one person,” McGraw said. “It seems like in the ACC, we’re always saying you have to guard these players or this person in particular, but with that team, everyone is good.”
Arizona State received an at-large bid to the tournament, finishing fourth in the Pac-12 in the regular season and falling in the quarterfinal of the conference tournament to USC.
The Irish and the Sun Devils tip off in the second round of the NCAA tournament Monday at 6:30 p.m. at Savage Arena in Toledo.