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ND Women’s Basketball

Brianna Turner, Kathryn Westbeld power Irish to win over Blue Devils

| Friday, January 27, 2017

A few seconds in any game can be difference between a nail-biting win and a heartbreaking loss. Irish junior forward Kathryn Westbeld proved this Thursday evening, as she played through pain to help lead No. 8 Notre Dame to a 62-58 comeback win over No. 14 Duke.

The Irish started slowly, as junior forward Brianna Turner scored Notre Dame’s first eight points while no one else was able to get a shot to drop early on. The Irish began flatfooted on both sides of the ball, allowing the Blue Devils to jump out to a 24-17 lead by the end of the first quarter. However, the Irish were able to swing the momentum in their favor heading into the half, as Turner scored four consecutive Irish points to tie the game at halftime, something Irish head coach Muffet McGraw felt was one of the game’s turning points.

Irish junior forward Brianna Turner surveys the court during Notre Dame’s 62-58 win over Duke on Thursday at Purcell Pavilion.Michelle Mehelas | The Observer
Irish junior forward Brianna Turner surveys the court during Notre Dame’s 62-58 win over Duke on Thursday at Purcell Pavilion.

“At halftime, we were talking about [how] we have to withstand their run,” McGraw said. “Because we were flatfooted in the first quarter. We just couldn’t get anything going. We had to withstand that. So, to get back to even at halftime I thought was a major accomplishment. Then, we were starting over and able to make a run. So I think that was important. We knew we just really had to buckle down defensively, which we did not do in the first quarter.”

Notre Dame struggled to contain Duke junior guard Lexie Brown, who exploded for 12 points in the first quarter alone and finished with 22 overall.

McGraw was frustrated with her team’s inability to guard Brown effectively and in the manner they had planned to, with the exception of senior guard Lindsay Allen.

“Our plan was to faceguard, which means you’re not allowed to let her get the ball, and we couldn’t find anyone to do that until [Allen] guarded her in the fourth quarter,” McGraw said. “And, I thought after [Allen] guarded her, [the rest of the team] would see ‘This is how you do it.’ But they didn’t. So, that’s something that we need to work on. We haven’t worked on that a lot. You know, I think we were trying to deny a little, but we really didn’t get the concept at all.”

Allen’s first attempt at guarding Brown with 34 seconds left in the third quarter spurred the Irish to the lead. She was able to come away with a steal, creating a major momentum swing that resulted in an Irish run.

“I think in that moment, Coach [McGraw] had confidence in me,” Allen said. “She called my number, and so she talked about just denying her the ball, and so that’s what I did. … [I was] hoping [Brown would] throw a bad pass and she did. She just kind of threw it too far long, and so I just got that steal and started our run.”

The 6-0 run spurred on by Allen’s steal gave the Irish a four-point lead to defend in the game’s final 10 minutes.

Rebounds were the name of the game in the fourth quarter, however. They led the Irish to victory and got Purcell Pavilion on its feet.

As Duke sophomore guard Kyra Lambert recovered an offensive rebound, Westbeld seized the opportunity she saw, picking up a steal and getting the ball to Allen. Allen missed her layup, but freshman guard Jackie Young was able to get two consecutive offensive rebounds, although the Irish failed to convert before the Blue Devils rebounded the ball and regained possession.

Duke promptly turned the ball back over, but sophomore guard Marina Mabrey missed a 3-point attempt. Westbeld was ready to fight, however, and managed to come up with the offensive board. Mabrey missed another 3-pointer, but once again, Westbeld was ready at the glass to snag another rebound. This time, she took the ball to the hoop to herself, giving the Irish a nine-point lead — their largest of the game up to that point, with 3:29 left in the game.

For Turner, who set the pace for the Irish with 25 points and 12 rebounds, Westbeld’s offensive rebounds were undoubtedly the defining moment of the game.

“It was an awesome boost for us,” Turner said. “We were able to extend the shot clock and have long possessions and just [keep] the ball away from Duke, which was the goal, so it was really crucial for us. It was really the game-winning plays.”

McGraw echoed Turner’s sentiments on Westbeld’s play, especially since Westbeld was a game-time decision after not practicing all week due to an injury to her leg.

“She [put in a] really, really, Herculean effort,” McGraw said. “Just played probably through a lot of pain. … I think those [offensive rebounds were] just momentum killers for the other team. Any time you get an offensive rebound, they get deflated. And then you get another one and then you score on it, I think that it was such a turnaround. I think that was clearly the difference in the game.”

And while the Blue Devils were able to creep back into the game in the final two minutes, scoring seven unanswered points, the Irish hung on to secure a much-needed win against an ACC rival.

Following the win, Notre Dame will next take the court against another conference foe in Virginia. Tipoff for the game Sunday is scheduled for noon at Purcell Pavilion.

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About Elizabeth Greason

Elizabeth is a senior studying civil engineering from New York, NY (yes, the actual city). She is a proud resident assistant in McGlinn Hall and is a die-hard Mets and Giants fan. She is currently serving as assistant managing editor of The Observer and she also has an obsession with golf that is bordering on unhealthy.

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