ND Women’s Basketball
Notre Dame overcomes early deficit to pull away, advance to second weekend
Samantha Zuba | Monday, March 23, 2015
No. 2 Notre Dame stayed out of overtime this go around against DePaul.
The No. 1-seeded Irish defeated the No. 9-seeded Blue Demons, 79-67, on Sunday night at Purcell Pavilion. The win sends Notre Dame to the Sweet 16.
The last time the Irish (33-2, 15-1 ACC) and Blue Demons (27-8, 15-3 Big East) met, Notre Dame won an overtime thriller, 94-93, on Dec. 10 at McGrath-Phillips Arena in Chicago. Irish junior forward Jewell Loyd scored 41 points in that victory.
Sunday’s game didn’t stay so close as after a tight first half, Notre Dame broke the game open.
The Irish built a 57-44 lead in the second half when junior guard Michaela Mabrey snagged a defensive rebound and found a wide-open Taya Reimer with a long half-court pass that the sophomore forward converted into a layup.
Reimer tallied a double-double, 14 points and 10 rebounds.
“Taya Reimer, what a game,” Irish head coach Muffet McGraw said. “I thought an All-American performance from Taya tonight.”
Notre Dame widened its advantage to 68-49 with an 11-5 run; Reimer scored a jumpshot from the elbow to make the score 63-49, sophomore guard Lindsay Allen followed with a steal that led to a foul and freshman forward Briana Turner hit two free throws.
Two straight layups by Turner pushed the Irish to a 77-55 advantage with 4:02 left to play.
Turner recorded a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds.
DePaul pressured Notre Dame early, forcing four Irish turnovers in the first four minutes and 10 total in the first half. The Blue Demons converted those turnovers into 13 of their first-half points.
“I think in the beginning, we were a little frustrated with their pressure, and I thought we settled down a little bit and really started to get some back doors and started to get our offense flowing more,” Mabrey said.
DePaul led from the 17:35 mark of the first half until the half’s sixth minute.
Blue Demons junior guard/forward Megan Podkowa drove DePaul’s attack. She tied Mabrey for the game-high in points at 19 and also matched Turner for the game-high in rebounds with 11.
DePaul shot 41.4 percent from the floor in the first half, but made only 31.7 percent of its field goals in the second. Blue Demons guard Brittany Hrynko said the off shooting was the biggest difference from the previous matchup between the two teams.
“In the first game, I would say the majority of our shots were falling,” Hyrnko said. “This game, it wasn’t many of them dropping. The ones that did counted for us. The ones that didn’t just kept motivating us to keep wanting to shoot; if we drove, try to kick it out and just keep shooting.”
Reimer pulled Notre Dame to within three, 13-10, with a turnaround jumper at 13:33 in the first half, but the Blue Demons expanded their lead to 18-10.
With the Irish trailing 24-19 and 7:50 remaining in the first half, Reimer drained another jumper during a 12-0 run for Notre Dame.
Mabrey tied the game 24-24 with a 3-pointer, then gave the Irish a 27-24 lead with another 3-pointer 49 seconds later, this one from a couple steps behind the arc. It was Notre Dame’s first lead since the game’s first two minutes.
“Michaela’s such a great shooter,” Reimer said. “… When she’s hitting shots, we all just get energy off of that, and we play off of that, and it gets us into it. We’re all trying to look for her all the time because that just brings the defense out when they have to guard her.”
Mabrey led the Irish in the first half with 11 points.
“I thought Michaela Mabrey had an unbelievable stretch where she hit some [3-pointers], got a couple defensive rebounds, which surprised all of us,” McGraw said smiling, “and did a really good job at both ends of the floor. I thought she had a great performance.”
Mabrey’s 3-pointers energized the Irish turnaround, and DePaul never regained the lead.
“We missed some serious assignments there at the beginning of the second half, and that cost us dearly,” DePaul head coach Doug Bruno said. “We let [Mabrey] get going, and we eventually got it settled down, but that was after she had already hit three or four.”
Loyd sank two free throws to push the Irish edge to 29-24, and Notre Dame followed with defensive pressure at the other end to force a Hrynko turnover. The Irish eventually headed to the locker room with a 37-31 edge after Loyd made two more free throws with two seconds left.
Loyd recorded 10 points, about half her season average points per game.
“I think on a night when both stars of each team were uncharacteristically off, it was great to see how the rest of the team picked us up,” McGraw said.
Notre Dame plays its Sweet 16 matchup at either 7 or 9:30 p.m. Friday at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City. The Irish will play either Oklahoma or No. 14 Stanford, who play Monday night at 6:30 p.m. for a spot in the Sweet 16.