ND Women’s Basketball
Notre Dame coasts to 90-37 victory over Clemson
Alex Bender | Monday, January 22, 2018
After losing by 43 points to Louisville just 10 days ago, No. 5 Notre Dame continued its recent success Sunday as the Irish (18-2, 6-1 ACC) handled Clemson without drama, defeating the Tigers (11-9, 1-6) by a score of 90-37 at Purcell Pavilion.
Notre Dame came into Sunday’s contest after defeating Tennessee on Thursday, completing the largest comeback in program history and overcoming a 23-point deficit to beat the Volunteers 84-70 (16-3, 4-2 SEC). The Irish carried the momentum into the matchup with the Tigers, running out to a 15-point lead by the end of the first quarter.
Irish head coach Muffet McGraw noted how critical it was for her team to carry a strong performance over into this game, in addition to recognizing the importance of every game moving forward.
“This was the most important game of the year, and every game from here on out is the most important game. We have to be ready every single game out,” McGraw said. “I was a little worried about our focus at the shoot-around today, but we came out ready, so I think that maybe we were just a little bit looser than we have been in the past.”
As play got underway, the Irish defense was swarming, forcing seven turnovers in the first six minutes of action and turning that into eight points. Leading the way early on for the Irish offense was senior forward Kathryn Westbeld, who racked up 10 points and four rebounds in nine minutes, helping to solidify the lead early for Notre Dame. McGraw commended Westbeld for her effort on the day and for her role on the team this season post-game.
“I think she’s the unsung hero of our team. She steps up when we need her and she allows other people to do what they can do also,” McGraw said. “She’s certainly willing to be an unselfish role player at times and I like when she steps up and gets us going because she can be a leader for us when she does that.”
As the game continued into the second quarter, the Irish only further extended their lead, scoring 10 straight to start the quarter. The first half was dominated by the Irish interior game, as both Westbeld and junior forward Jessica Shepard put up strong numbers. Of Notre Dame’s 48 first half points, 34 of them came in the paint.
Heading into the second half, sophomore guard Jackie Young began to take over the Irish. After scoring back-to-back and-1 layups, Young helped Notre Dame go on a 9-0 run midway through the third. The sophomore guard would finish the day trying her career-high of 23 points on the day, something she has done four times this season. Afterwards, Young pointed to the team’s unselfish way of playing as the reason for her own success as well as the success of her teammates.
“It’s fun. Everybody out there can score the ball, so now it’s just about having fun and being unselfish. Somebody is going to get going every night, tonight it was Kat [Westbeld] at the beginning of the game, so we just have to keep being unselfish,” Young said. “We’re all smart players and know what we should do, and I think the more games we play, the easier it’s going to be.”
Although Notre Dame‘s offense only put up 15 points in the final frame, the defense remained remarkably stout, allowing only three points to the Tigers in the entire quarter. The Irish coasted to a 90-37 victory and improved to 5-0 all-time against Clemson. The 53-point win marked the largest Notre Dame conference victory since joining the ACC five seasons ago.
The Irish will next return to action on the road against Pittsburgh this Thursday before heading down south to Tallahassee, Florida, for a matchup against the 11th-ranked Seminoles on Sunday. McGraw recognized the challenges that lie ahead for her team and noted the importance of being prepared for those upcoming games.
“I think the biggest thing for us is just to be ready to have intense practices but maybe go a little bit shorter, and to focus one game at a time,” McGraw said. “We’ve got to be ready for Pitt right now, we can’t look ahead at what’s next, and just continue to do what we’re doing.”