ND Women’s Basketball
Irish bounce back in win over Spartans
Charlie Ortega Guifarro | Thursday, December 7, 2017
Coming off their first loss of the season on the road against top-ranked UConn, the No. 3 Irish bounced back Wednesday evening at Purcell Pavilion, beating Michigan State 90-59. Junior guard Arike Ogunbowale led the Irish with 23 points on a night in which head coach Muffet McGraw was honored for her induction into the Naismith Hall of Fame.
The Irish (8-1) started the game strong, going on an 11-0 run — with six coming from junior forward Jessica Shepard — before the Spartans (5-3) finally scored with 7:16 left in the opening quarter. Notre Dame continued to attack the Spartan defense, however, as Ogunbowale found holes in the defense for easy layups to put the Irish up 21-6. But in the final two minutes, the Irish cooled down offensively, and the quarter closed with Notre Dame up 23-9.
In the second quarter, the Irish defense was dominant, making up for eight first-half turnovers of their own by limiting the Spartans to two baskets and seven points in the period and 16 points in the half. Notre Dame forced 11 turnovers in the half, held Michigan State to a 19 percent field-goal percentage on 6-for-32 shooting and didn’t give up a point over the final six minutes. With the defense forcing stop after stop, the Irish offense went off on a 16-0 run to end the first half and propel the team to a 47-16 lead heading into the locker room.
The Spartans came out of halftime in a full court press, trying to force turnovers to get back into the game. The plan worked well initially, as Notre Dame turned the ball over four times within the first two minutes, and Michigan State jumped out on a 10-2 run.
The Spartans outscored the Irish 25-18 in the quarter and held them to 6-for-19 shooting, but as the momentum seemed to be going Michigan State’s way, Irish sophomore guard Jackie Young got a huge block on Spartans sophomore guard Taryn McCutcheon with just under a minute left to set up an Irish run.
Notre Dame came out in the fourth quarter and closed out the game, going on a 10-2 run to start the period and effectively put the game out of reach. Shepard finished the game with 19 points on 7-for-11 shooting while also adding two rebounds and three steals. Shepard attributed her success to just following the game plan and thanked her teammates for the playmaking.
“Coming in and playing a Big Ten team — a team I’m familiar with — Coach put a big emphasis on making sure we got the ball inside, just because I have a one-on-one in there. The guards did a great job of passing it in, and it just comes down to finishing, which has really been a focus,” Shepard said.
Young finished with 13 points and seven rebounds, and graduate student guard Lili Thompson had 12 points and nine rebounds on 4-of-5 shooting from the floor. Freshman forward Danielle Patterson played 10 minutes, nine of which came in the second half, and finished with four points.
The Irish were able to contain Michigan State’s two leading scorers, freshman forward Sidney Cooks and senior guard Branndais Agee to just two and zero points, respectively. The Spartans still found some offense through junior center Jenna Allen and senior guard Lexi Gussert, who each hit three 3-pointers. Allen had a game-high 28 points on 10-for-18 shooting, and Gussert added 11 points.
Notre Dame outrebounded Michigan State, 44-34, despite both teams getting 11 offensive boards. While both teams finished practically identical in assists and turnovers, the difference in the scoreboard came from the free-throw line: Notre Dame went 28-for-35 from the charity stripe, and Michigan State went 12-for-17.
Before the game, the University honored McGraw for her induction into the Naismith Hall of Fame this past fall. McGraw has held her position for 31 straight years and coached her 1,000th game this past weekend.
Ogunbowale was proud of her coach and appreciated the fact she gets the opportunity to learn from the best.
“It’s just an honor to be able play under her and be coached by her every day, to get her wisdom and experience,” she said.