ND Women’s Basketball
Irish defeat Eagles, extend win streak to 10
Elizabeth Greason | Monday, February 19, 2018
The scores of Notre Dame’s two games against Boston College this season — 89-55 and 89-60 — are representative of, what one might think would be, two very similar games. And yet, in this road matchup, as opposed to Notre Dame’s home win, it was a tale of two halves.
The Irish (25-2, 13-1 ACC) went into halftime with a nine-point lead after getting out to a sluggish start. The Eagles (7-20, 2-12) kept pace with the Irish for the game’s first few minutes; however, the Irish went on an 8-0 run over the course of nearly three minutes in the first quarter, which yielded a 14-6 lead for Notre Dame.
Eight of Notre Dame’s points in the first quarter came from the bench — namely from freshman forward Danielle Patterson and graduate student forward Kristina Nelson. Irish head coach Muffet McGraw was pleased with Nelson’s performance, but she felt her team’s first-half performance was sloppy overall.
“I didn’t think we came out ready. I was really frustrated with our approach to the game today,” McGraw said. “I thought Koko gave us great minutes off the bench. She was really solid, had a lot of energy. We didn’t have a lot of energy. We were a little careless, I thought, and defensively, we had a lot of lapses.”
Thirty of Notre Dame’s 39 first-half points came in the paint. Much of the Irish strength in the paint came from junior forward Jessica Shepard, who finished the game tied for a team-high 18 points.
However, it was Eagles sophomore guard Taylor Ortlepp who really shone through, as she recorded 17 points in the first half alone, knocking down five 3-pointers in the game’s first half. The Irish adjusted their defensive scheme to account for Ortlepp slightly at the half, but the Australia native accumulated 24 points total, a high for either team. She went 6-of-11 from behind the arc. McGraw said Ortlepp was particularly impressive and forced Notre Dame’s hand.
“We had to go man-to-man, which we really didn’t want to do, but that was the only way we could guard [Ortlepp],” McGraw said.
The Irish were able to turn the game around and pull ahead of the Eagles in the second half. The Notre Dame defensive effort made a marked difference in the third quarter, as there were multiple multi-minute stretches during which the Irish prevented the Eagles from scoring.
In the fourth quarter, the Irish outscored the Eagles 28-13, sealing the win. It was junior guard Arike Ogunbowale who led the Irish in the final quarter with six points, as the Irish cruised to the 89-55 win, reminiscent of Jan. 14’s 89-60 win over the Eagles at Purcell Pavilion.
Aside from points in the paint, the real difference-maker for the Irish was points scored off turnovers, as the Eagles tallied nine second-half turnovers. Notre Dame outscored Boston College 26-2 on points off turnovers, as the Irish only had six turnovers on the afternoon.
Five Irish players finished the game with double-digit point totals. Aside from Shepard’s 18, sophomore guard Jackie Young also scored 18 points; Nelson finished with 16; Ogunbowale tallied 15 and junior guard Marina Mabrey notched 11 points. Young, Nelson and senior forward Kathryn Westbeld each collected eight rebounds, as well, while Nelson dished out seven assists.
With the victory over the Eagles, the Irish have extended their winning streak to 10 games and only have two regular-season games remaining before the ACC tournament in Virginia Tech and North Carolina State. McGraw said the Irish are ready for the regular season to come to a close, but she knows they cannot get too far ahead of themselves, as there are still games to come.
“It’s a grind. It’s hard to mentally get ready when you’ve already played a team once,” she said. “I think we’ll be OK at home because we haven’t played either of those teams yet. I think we have to come in with a little more energy, and I think our crowd will do that for us. I think now we can see the end.
“It’s one more road game. We just feel like we’re a little weary of the travel, and it’s that time of the year that you feel that way. And everybody feels that way. You can’t allow yourself to feel that way. And that’s why I was disappointed, because we didn’t battle through it until the second half.”
Notre Dame will return home to take on to play Virginia Tech on Thursday with tipoff scheduled for 7 p.m.