ND Women’s Basketball
Notre Dame staves off late comeback attempt to take down Clemson
Elizabeth Greason | Friday, February 17, 2017
No. 7 Notre Dame was poised to extend its winning streak to eight for the majority of its matchup against Clemson on Thursday, maintaining a commanding lead from start to finish. Almost.
The Irish (24-3, 12-1 ACC) allowed the Tigers (14-13, 3-11) to claw back into the game, coming back from a 13-point deficit two minutes into the fourth quarter to draw within two of the Irish with seconds left on the clock. Notre Dame was able to pull out the win, as sophomore guard Marina Mabrey knocked down two free throws to give the Irish the 84-80 victory.
Irish head coach Muffet McGraw credited Clemson with a strong performance, but noted her team’s lack of focus on defense was what allowed the near-upset. McGraw criticized her team for its defensive struggles, which have been an issue throughout the season.
“[Clemson has] played well lately,” McGraw said. “They’re kind of a new team, a young team and [Clemson head coach Audra Smith has] them really playing well together. They’ve got a lot of energy. I was, again, I feel like I’m repeating myself, but our defense was just awful. We have no pride in our defense. It’s a shame because we could be really good, we just don’t care about defense.”
McGraw had a simple fix for the defensive issues.
“You sub,” McGraw said.
On the offensive side of the ball, however, the Irish had a stronger night. The offense’s shining moment came in the first quarter, when the team went on a 15-0 run near the start of the quarter to give them a 19-6 lead.
Sophomore guard Arike Ogunbowale scored 15 points on the night, despite going 5-for-13, and tallied seven rebounds. It was Mabrey, however, who paced the Irish with 29 points, three rebounds and three assists. Mabrey’s night was highlighted by three 3-pointers. McGraw praised Mabrey’s effort and noted she carried the team throughout the game.
“She was phenomenal,” McGraw said. “She took it all on her back and down the stretch she hit every big shot and then the free throws at the end. … She doesn’t force things. She takes what they give her. If they give her shots, she takes them and makes them and if they don’t give her shots, she looks to contribute in another way by getting assists or playing better on defense.”
Junior forward Brianna Turner picked up nine points for the Irish, but the Preseason All-American got in foul trouble early in the second half, forcing her to take a seat for much of the half. McGraw was particularly displeased with Turner’s inability to keep her personal fouls to a minimum.
“We need to have Bri on the floor,” McGraw said. “You need to be smart, you can’t play half the game. … It was just really not being smart. When you’ve got three [fouls], you’ve just, you’ve got to give it up.”
Senior forward Kristina Nelson stepped up in Turner’s absence, scoring eight points, blocking two shots and nabbing two rebounds.
After scraping out the win over the Tigers, McGraw is looking forward to Notre Dame’s next game against No. 21 Syracuse, which will be on Sunday at 5 p.m. at Syracuse’s Carrier Dome.
“[Syracuse senior guard Alexis] Peterson’s really having a phenomenal year and [red-shirt senior Brittney] Skyes is a tough matchup for us, so they’re a very good team,” McGraw said.
McGraw she hopes to have some of her injury- and illness-ridden team back and ready to play for the matchup.
“[Junior guard] Mychal Johnson was only allowed to play a couple minutes tonight,” McGraw said. “[Sophomore guard] Ali [Patberg] will be back; [junior forward] Kathryn [Westbeld] hopefully will be back, I don’t know her status yet.”