ND Women’s Basketball
Notre Dame tops BC, completes 14-0 home slate
Mary Green | Monday, February 29, 2016
Before each season begins, Notre Dame writes out a list of goals its players want to accomplish as a team.
The No. 2 Irish checked the first off their list Saturday, when they clinched the outright ACC regular season title with a 70-58 win over Boston College at Purcell Pavilion.
The conference championship is the fifth-straight one Notre Dame has earned, going back to the team’s final two seasons in the Big East.
“It’s been amazing, it really has, the run that we’ve had,” Irish head coach Muffet McGraw said. “No matter who graduates, we can keep our tradition going, and I think that means a lot to me. … Just to have the players come in with those kinds of expectations and to be able to fulfill them. It’s one thing to have the expectation, but it’s something else to be able to get the job done.”
Notre Dame (28-1, 16-0 ACC) became the third different school to claim three straight ACC crowns outright, a feat that has not happened since Duke did so from 2001-2004. The Irish join that Duke team as the only two ACC squads to wrap up a three-season span with just one conference loss.
The victory also marked the final home game for senior guards Michaela Mabrey and Hannah Huffman and graduate student guard Madison Cable. Notre Dame has won 26 of its last 28 Senior Day matchups.
“They were in charge of the culture,” McGraw said of this year’s senior class. “They’ve done a great job with that. What we are going to miss from them is so much more than statistics because of the way they lead and the toughness that they bring. They are competitive. They have a sense of urgency. They understand what it takes to be at the level we want to be at. They try to get the freshmen to understand that, too.
“Their leadership this year has really been phenomenal. Statistically, they’ve done great things, too, but all three of them have added so much more in terms of our culture.”
With Huffman joining Mabrey and Cable in the starting lineup, the Irish raced out to a fast start, led by their seniors. Within the first four minutes of the game, Huffman had collected a steal and ensuing coast-to-coast layup, Cable swiped two more steals, and Mabrey had hit two 3s.
Notre Dame made basket after basket and had built itself a 25-12 lead by the end of the first quarter, with the Irish offense shooting 83.3 percent from the field.
By the time halftime rolled around, the Irish were up over the Eagles (14-15, 2-14 ACC), 42-24, and Boston College was shooting just 34.6 percent.
“They shot 73 percent in the first half, and it wasn’t that they shot the lights out,” Eagles head coach Erik Johnson said. “When they get an open 3, sure, they make it. What makes them special is that they are the highest 3-point percentage shooting team around, but they don’t shoot that many because they go out and get layups, they get great shots. They are able to be balanced, and they are able to share the ball and create shots for each other.”
For Notre Dame, Cable had already picked up 11 of her team-leading 20 total points by the break.
“She’s the heart and soul of our team,” McGraw said of Cable. “She is the most competitive, the hardest worker, and she will give it all for the team every single day. She will take a charge, dive for loose balls and give it 110 percent every single minute she is on the floor — practices or games, it doesn’t matter. She plays hard every day. … We would not be where we are without her.”
Though Notre Dame started the third quarter with an 18-point lead, that advantage gradually decreased as the home team struggled on offense in the second half, shooting 36.7 percent and making just one of its 10 3-point attempts. The Eagles heated up a bit, coming through on 46.4 percent of their shots in the second half and outscored Notre Dame in the final two quarters, 34-28.
Sophomore forward Brianna Turner and freshman guard Arike Ogunbowale each contributed 15 points and eight rebounds as the Irish had established enough of a cushion in the first half to secure the final 70-58 victory.
“I wish the second half as been as good [as the first half],” McGraw said. “It would’ve been nice to finish it better.”
With the ACC regular season title in their possession, the Irish earned the No. 1 seed and a double-bye at this week’s ACC tournament in Greensboro, North Carolina. They will play Friday at 2 p.m. against the winner of No. 8-seed Duke and No. 9-seed Virginia.