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ND Women’s Basketball

Turner’s 18 and bench boost Irish over Hokies

| Monday, January 25, 2016

In a game where the offense got off to a slow start, No. 3 Notre Dame put together a strong defensive performance to beat ACC-foe Virginia Tech, 80-41.

On Sunday, the Irish (19-1, 7-0 ACC) and the Hokies (14-5, 2-4 ACC) both started slowly offensively. The Irish shot just 31 percent from the field in the first quarter while holding the Hokies to 19 percent shooting.

But the Irish were able to pick up the offensive pace as the game went on, while the Hokies continued to struggle. Notre Dame ended the game shooting 52 percent, while Virginia Tech only managed to convert 27 percent of their attempts.

One reason for the Hokies shooting woes was their inability to get the ball inside against the Irish defense. One of the biggest advantages for the Irish was in points-in-the-paint, where they outscored the Hokies 48-10. Hokies head coach Dennis Wolff said he thought the size of the Irish — particularly in their backcourt — made it difficult for his team to get inside and create easier shot opportunities.

“I think they have good size,” Wolff said. “The guards are pretty good-sized girls as well. I think they can switch and not get hurt. They also have one of the best coaches in the history of women’s basketball, so they do a great job of taking away what you’re good at and playing off of your weaknesses. I think that they played some of the kids hard that can shoot for us and then stayed off the other kids which made their defense tough.”

This sentiment was echoed by Irish head coach Muffet McGraw. McGraw said she believed this was one of her team’s best defensive performances of the season.

“I was really happy with the defense, which doesn’t happen often,” McGraw said. “That was great. We did a lot of really good things defensively. I thought we talked; we communicated; we just really worked. I thought it was very intense, and they did a good job knowing who the shooters were.”

In particular, McGraw said playing four guards allowed them to bother the Virginia Tech shooters and shift the momentum.

“I didn’t know if we’d have an advantage going to four guards, but I think when Arike came in, I think that’s when things really started to turn for us,” McGraw said. “I think it was a good move defensively for us to be able to do that.”

The effect of this strategy became apparent quickly. At the end of the first quarter, the Irish were hanging on to an 11-7 lead. By halftime, the lead had grown to 20. Although sophomore starting forward Brianna Turner was the team’s leading scorer with 18 points, McGraw said it was the bench that sparked the offensive turnaround for the Irish.

“I thought we started the game looking a little fatigued [from] our third game in a week,” McGraw said. “We just couldn’t get the energy, and then I thought we got it off the bench. [Freshman guard Arike Ogunbowale] came in and gave us great energy. [Sophomore guard Mychal Johnson] gave us some good energy, so I think it was really important tonight. The bench was really key.”

Irish freshman guard Arike Ogunbowale dribbles upcourt during Notre Dame’s 79-66 victory over Tennessee on Jan. 24 at Purcell Pavilion. Ogunbowale scored 15 points, grabbed six rebounds and dished out two assists during Notre Dame’s 80-41 win over Virginia Tech on Sunday.Grace Tourville | The Observer
Irish freshman guard Arike Ogunbowale dribbles upcourt during Notre Dame’s 79-66 victory over Tennessee on Jan. 24 at Purcell Pavilion. Ogunbowale scored 15 points, grabbed six rebounds and dished out two assists during Notre Dame’s 80-41 win over Virginia Tech on Sunday.

Depth proved to be a significant advantage for the Irish. Of the Hokies 41 total points, only five came from their bench. In contrast, the Irish got 42 points from their bench alone. The bench was led by Ogunbowale’s 15 points and freshman guard Marina Mabrey’s 12.

After the game, McGraw said Ogunbowale’s ability and desire to score coming off the bench is much needed on this team, particularly in a game like this when the offense picks up slowly.

“I want her to look to score,” McGraw said. “She’s got a scorer’s mentality, [and] we need that. We don’t have a lot of that. We have a lot of players who are pass first, and we need somebody that’s really looking at the basket. Especially in a game like this, when we need to get things going. I think her shot selection has gotten a lot better throughout the season.”

Ogunbowale credits her continually growing comfort within the offense to her success as the team’s offensive spark off the bench this season, she said.

“I think I’m getting more comfortable, and I know what [McGraw] wants me to do, so I’m trying to do that,” Ogunbowale said.

McGraw was also pleased to see Johnson contribute on both ends of the court against the Hokies and hopes to see her continue to shoot the ball, she said.

“She played really well defensively in the last game, and today she was able to make some shots too and play well defensively” McGraw said. “She really played a complete game tonight, and she’s capable of that. I’d like to see her do that more, shoot the ball more actually.”

Notre Dame will look to continue their undefeated start in the ACC on Thursday when they travel to McCamish Pavilion in Atlanta to take on Georgia Tech. Tipoff for the game is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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About Benjamin Padanilam

Ben is a senior and The Observer’s former Editor-in-Chief, now serving as its interim Sports Editor. He is in the Program of Liberal Studies (PLS) and also pursuing minors in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) and Business Economics. He hails from Toledo, Ohio, and has enjoyed the few highs and many lows of being a Cleveland sports fan.

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