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ND Women’s Basketball

Guards carry Notre Dame to victory over Virginia Tech

| Friday, February 23, 2018

On Thursday night at Purcell Pavilion, No. 5 Notre Dame was able to fend off a hot start by Virginia Tech to pull away in the second half and secure the 89-59 victory. Leading the way for Notre Dame were junior guards Arike Ogunbowale — who scored a game-high 26 points — and Marina Mabrey —who posted a double-double with 21 points and 11 rebounds.

While Notre Dame (26-2, 14-1 ACC) is typically known for getting off to hot shooting starts, the Irish of found themselves on the receiving end of a strong start from the Hokies (17-11, 6-9). Virginia Tech jumped out to a lead courtesy of particularly strong shooting, especially from deep where it was 3-of-4 to start the night. Down 15-11 at one point in the first, the Irish were able to right the ship and come out of the first quarter up 26-24. In the second quarter, however, Notre Dame began to take over the game, going on a 12-0 run and securing an established lead it would not give up the rest of the way. Irish head coach Muffet McGraw commented on this critical stretch for her team after the game.

Rosie LoVoi | The Observer
Irish junior guard Marina Mabrey takes a jump shot during Notre Dame’s 89-59 win over Virginia Tech on Thursday night.

“I thought that was important just to get up, I think we got up five or six, and then it was 10, and then I think that was pretty much it,” McGraw said. “Arike really got going in that stretch, I think Marina got a shot during that stretch. We weren’t able to really score inside and that was our game plan to score inside, so I was thankful we were able to hit from the perimeter.”

Along with the strong play of Ogunbowale and Mabrey, sophomore guard Jackie Young was able to put up a solid performance as well, totaling 12 points and 10 rebounds. McGraw recognized how impressive the play of her three guards has been both in this game and on the season as a whole.

“When you don’t have a sub, you really have to be impressed with what they’re doing out there. They’re playing hard, Jackie is one the boards, she’s making big plays. They’re trying to run the offense and spelling each other at the point a little,” McGraw said. “Arike is able to go up and score pretty consistently, and I think defensively we got a little more aggressive at times. There’s always some work to do there, but overall all three have had a tremendous year. I think all three deserve all-conference accolades and [I am] certainly looking forward to having them continue to play this well and hopefully be in great shape for the ACC tournament.”

A special moment in the game came for senior forward Kathryn Westbeld as she was able to score her 1,000th career point in the third quarter. Afterwards, McGraw spoke highly about Westbeld’s character and what she has meant to the team.

“She is one of the most mentally-tough players that we’ve ever had. She’s somebody that is the consummate team player, always willing to give up her body and her stats for the team, and will always do exactly what you need her to do,” McGraw said. “She’s a smart player who has a really high basketball IQ. She does the little things and she glues us together. She’s poised, she’s the calm in the storm, especially against the press, and she has meant so much to our program over the last four years. She leaves a huge hole when she graduates that I’m not sure anybody can fill because she just does so many things well, and she just has such a great attitude. She’s been a joy to coach.”

With the victory, the Irish extended their winning streak to 11 games with just one game left to go in the regular season, which will come Sunday at home against No. 21 North Carolina State. Notre Dame is currently tied with Louisville for the regular-season title in the ACC, so Sunday’s matchup remains critical for the Irish. On top of the implications in the standings, Sunday is Senior Say for the Irish, so McGraw recognizes the challenge that lies ahead for her team.

“It’s going to be an emotional day,” she said. “It’s always tough, and it’s not going to be our last game here, so I think we can at least think of that, but for what these seniors have meant to our program, it’s going to bring so much emotion. We’ve got to be able to focus, and hopefully the underclassmen can carry the day.”

The Irish will face off against the Wolfpack (22-6, 11-4) on Sunday at Purcell Pavilion. Tipoff is scheduled for 2 p.m.

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