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ND Women’s Basketball

Notre Dame set to host Miami

| Friday, February 12, 2016

Since joining the ACC for the 2013-2014 season, Notre Dame has boasted a 48-1 record in conference play. On Sunday, the No. 3 Irish (23-1, 11-0 ACC) will face the only team to blemish that record when they welcome No. 19 Miami to Purcell Pavilion.

That defeat came in January 2015 in Coral Gables, Florida, with the Hurricanes winning by a score of 79-63. The Irish got their revenge in the quarterfinals of the ACC tournament that season though.

“We had a chance to play them again in the ACC tournament, and I think we were happy that we had a chance to play and beat that same team again,” Irish head coach Muffet McGraw said. “We’re both very different teams now though, so we’re not really thinking much about last year’s game.”

Freshman guard Marina Mabrey dribbles past a North Carolina State defender during Notre Dame’s 82-46 victory Feb. 4. The Irish will host conference foe Miami (Fla.) at Purcell Pavilion on Sunday. Caitlyn Jordan | The Observer
Freshman guard Marina Mabrey dribbles past a North Carolina State defender during Notre Dame’s 82-46 victory Feb. 4. The Irish will host conference foe Miami (Fla.) at Purcell Pavilion on Sunday.

McGraw said the Hurricane backcourt could pose a challenge to the Irish.

“They have a great backcourt,” McGraw said. “They have two all-conference level guards in [juniors Adrienne] Motley and [Jessica] Thomas. They’re both great 3-point shooters, they’re both great defenders, they can both take the ball and drive, and I think they’re really athletic, very aggressive. It’s going to be a very physical game.”

The Irish will enter Sunday’s contest with a full week of rest since their last outing, a 66-61 victory over No. 12 Louisville, who led by as many as nine points in the third quarter. The Hurricanes, meanwhile, will take the court only three days after playing Georgia Tech. McGraw said the extra off-days for the Irish are necessary to recover from a series of recent injuries and illnesses.

“It’s been less of a week to prepare and more of a week to rest,” McGraw said. “It’s a tough time of the year, and we’ve got a lot of minor injuries, some illness — everybody’s battling something right now.

“[Graduate student guard] Madison Cable’s been in a boot since [Louisville]. She hurt her ankle, played through it and now she’ll be in a boot for a while so her status will be day-to-day. And then a number of the girls have come down with sore throats, colds, the flu, so we only had nine for practice … but we were able to take Monday and Tuesday off so it was nice to get a bit of a break.”

McGraw said the break late in the regular season and between two ranked opponents came at an ideal time for her team.

“As soon as you get into early February, it’s a time when everybody is tired from the season and you can’t quite see the tournament coming, yet you know you have more games to play,” McGraw said. “Once the regular season’s over, you can get excited about the NCAA tournament again, but right now we’re just trying to finish strong.”

The Irish have battled through tight contests in three of their last four games, including fourth-quarter comebacks on the road against both Duke and Louisville. McGraw said these close games have helped her team gain confidence in late-game situations.

“It’s been good for us,” McGraw said. “We’ve been challenged. We’ve had to come from behind late in the game, we’ve been able to work on a lot of specific situations, a lot of late game stuff, and I think our poise at the end of the game and our intelligence have been great. With [junior guard] Lindsay Allen out there, we know we’re going to make some great decisions, so we’ve been really pleased with the way we’ve handled being behind in these games. And in the ACC at this time of year everybody’s good, you’re playing on the road, every game is going to be a challenge and you have to be ready for it. It’s great that we’ve been behind in the second half and yet we’ve found a way to come back.

“We don’t panic. We just get it done.”

The Irish defense has stepped up in 2016, giving up no more than 66 points in any game since the New Year.

“We’re playing great defense,” McGraw said. “We’ve been working very hard on our defense trying to improve, and I think we’re doing a great job on that end of the floor. And offensively, I think we’re doing good things, we have a couple of people shooting the ball really well right now. [Sophomore center] Brianna Turner’s playing really well, Lindsay Allen’s been playing great, [freshman guard] Arike Ogunbowale, those three have really stepped up and taken over a lot of the scoring, along with Madison Cable who’s probably been our steadiest performer all year long.”

The Irish and the Hurricanes meet at Purcell Pavilion on Sunday. Tipoff is at 1 p.m.

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About Daniel O'Boyle

Daniel O'Boyle is a senior sports writer living in Alumni Hall, majoring in Political Science. He is currently on the Notre Dame Women's Basketball, Men's Tennis and Women's Soccer beats. Originally from Belfast, Northern Ireland, Daniel spends most of his free time attempting to keep up with second-flight English soccer and his beloved Reading FC. He believes Lonzo Ball is the greatest basketball player of all time.

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