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ND Women’s Basketball

McGraw wins 800th game, Irish build win streak over break

| Wednesday, January 13, 2016

A week after the fact, the Irish were finally able to celebrate head coach Muffet McGraw’s 800th victory Sunday on their home court at Purcell Pavilion.

Less than two hours later, McGraw had easily collected win No. 802, as No. 3 Notre Dame rolled to an 88-54 victory over North Carolina.

The head coach said that, 16 games into its season, her team is finally hitting its stride.

“I’m really happy. I think that we’re playing really well,” McGraw said after the game. “We’re really starting to gel as a team. I think we’re finding our comfort zone.”

Besides a few back-and-forth baskets to open the matchup, Notre Dame (15-1, 4-0 ACC) was never really threatened by North Carolina (12-6, 2-1), especially in the paint, where the Irish dominated the Tar Heels with a 50-14 scoring advantage.

Sophomore forward Brianna Turner, who said she is finally playing with no pain after a late November shoulder injury, led the charge down low with 11 points, nine rebounds, five blocks and several more altered shots.

“It’s great to have her, not just because of what she does around the basket, but she can guard on the perimeter as well, and she can come out and guard 3-point shooters, she can guard the point guard,” McGraw said of Turner. “She gives us that great versatility to be able to use her on the perimeter. We can switch some screens if we needed to, so I’m really pleased with her defense.”

Freshman guard Arike Ogunbowale led Notre Dame on offense with 16 points, many of which came on layups as she weaved through Tar Heel defenders to the basket and drew contact. Ogunbowale was also a perfect 4-for-4 from the free-throw line.

“I’m just playing, doing whatever I can to help the team,” Ogunbowale said.

“I just love the way [Ogunbowale] plays,” McGraw said. “When she gets the ball in the open floor, especially coming full court, something good’s gonna happen, and she’s gonna get to the free-throw line. She’s gonna score a lot of points. She’s a great passer also, so she’s really, really tough to defend. She’s really coming into her own.”

Ogunbowale was one of four Notre Dame players in double-figure scoring, along with Turner, graduate student guard Madison Cable (12) and freshman guard Marina Mabrey (14).

Tar Heels head coach Sylvia Hatchell, another member of the 800-win club, said that balance of power presented a challenge to her team on defense.

“They’ve got so many weapons. So many of them can score,” she said.

The win over the Tar Heels was the sixth the Irish collected over the winter break and their eighth consecutive following their Dec. 5 road loss to No. 1 Connecticut.

During the break from classes, they all but wrapped up their nonconference schedule with victories against McGraw’s alma mater, St. Joseph’s, by a score of 91-55 on Dec. 21 and pulled out a nail-biter against No. 12 Oregon State, 62-61, on Dec. 28. The Irish have one more non-ACC game remaining, a matchup with No. 13 Tennessee next Monday at Purcell Pavilion.

Two days later, Notre Dame opened its ACC schedule by taking an 85-76 home matchup against Georgia Tech, and the team helped McGraw earn her 800th win at Pittsburgh in a 65-55 contest against the Panthers.

With the win, McGraw became just the fifth college coach, men’s or women’s, all-time to accumulate at least 800 career wins, seven trips to the Final Four and five title game appearances, joining Tennessee’s Pat Summitt, Connecticut’s Geno Auriemma, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski and North Carolina’s Dean Smith.

After earning that milestone, the team rolled to a 74-46 victory over Virginia in Charlottesville last Thursday before topping North Carolina on Sunday.

Irish players, coaches and fans marked McGraw’s milestone with a pregame ceremony Sunday. McGraw, standing at center court alongside her husband, Matt, received a commemorative ball presented by her assistants, as fans held up signs simply reading, “800.”

Fans hold up signs with the number "800" written on them Saturday at Purcell Pavilion to honor Irish head coach Muffet McGraw's 800th career victory.Mary Green
Fans hold up signs with the number “800” written on them Sunday at Purcell Pavilion to honor Irish head coach Muffet McGraw’s 800th career victory.

“It was a really emotional moment for me,” McGraw said. “Just to look up and see all the fans and know that they’ve been here for so many of those wins. To look up and see my friends and of course Matt. I wanted him to be out there enjoying it because he’s been there for every one of them.

“It was a really special moment and one that I will treasure.”

The Irish next hit the road to face Boston College on Thursday at Conte Forum in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts.

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Current Assistant Managing Editor, former Sports Editor of The Observer | Follow Mary on Twitter: @maryegreen15

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