ND Women’s Basketball
Mabrey, Ogunbowale pace Irish in win over Tar Heels
Elizabeth Greason | Friday, February 2, 2018
It may have been a matchup of two of the most legendary teams in NCAA history, but one squad clearly reigned supreme in Thursday’s matchup, as the No. 5 Irish took down North Carolina, 94-62.
Notre Dame (21-2, 9-1 ACC) took control of the game in the first minute, as sophomore guard Jackie Young took the ball to the hoop and lead off an 11-2 run for the Irish. Junior guard Arike Ogunbowale aided the run with a 3 and steal — Notre Dame’s first of many for the evening.
Coming off its first 100-point game against a top-10 team in program history with a 100-69 win Sunday over then-No. 8 Florida State, the Irish appeared to be riding the momentum of the victory into every play, outhustling the Tar Heels (14-8, 4-5) for each loose ball. North Carolina turned the ball over five times in the game’s first six minutes.
The Irish ended the first quarter up 26-11, managed to hold the Tar Heels scoreless for the quarter’s final 2:28 and notched nine assists to UNC’s one in the game’s first 10 minutes.
Irish head coach Muffet McGraw was pleased with her team’s performance, both offensively and defensively, throughout the game.
“I thought we played pretty well defensively, especially through the first 3 1/2 quarters,” McGraw said. “I thought the zone was pretty good — we were identifying the shooters, had some great awareness. I thought the rebounding could have been a little better.”
Assists would be the name of the game for Notre Dame, as it went on to tally its season-high in the category, finishing the night with 28 assists on 37 baskets.
When the Tar Heels did score, they were streaky, as the Notre Dame defense was able to stifle them for long periods of time. After failing to score for the final two minutes of the first quarter, the Irish went on a 7-0 run to start the second. The Irish moved the ball efficiently up the court, with junior guard Marina Mabrey settling into her role of running the point in place of injured graduate student guard Lili Thompson. Mabrey finished the night with eight assists, tying her season-high.
Senior forward Kathryn Westbeld scored her first points of the game with a minute left to play in the half, as the Irish went into halftime with a 51-21 lead. Once again, the Tar Heels struggled to score at the end of the quarter, not scoring the final 2:42 of half. North Carolina turned the ball over 12 times in the first half.
In the third, North Carolina went on one of its only scoring runs of the game, an 8-0 run that lasted over two minutes, but Irish freshman forward Danielle Patterson ended the streak with a layup to bring the game to 61-33.
Mabrey hit a long 3 from the corner that got Purcell Pavilion on its feet and started a Notre Dame scoring run that ended the third quarter, in which the Tar Heels once again were incapable of scoring for the final 2:13. Mabrey finished the game with a team-high 25 points and eight assists.
However, in the midst of the final 6-0 run for the Irish in the third quarter, Westbeld was poked in the eye and left the game, not to return. McGraw described her condition as day-to-day after the game.
“We had a doctor and an ophthalmologist look at her already, and there’s no structural damage, it’s just swollen shut,” McGraw said. “So, she’ll be day-to-day.”
The start of the final stanza was the Arike Ogunbowale show. The Milwaukee native found herself open consistently on the offensive end, and she hit back-to-back 3s to open the quarter. Her streak was interrupted by a North Carolina bucket, but Ogunbowale was unphased, heading back upcourt and sinking her third 3 in a row, helping her to a total of 24 points on the night. She then turned up the heat on defense, coming up with an impressive steal — one of her four — that subsequently led to a layup by graduate student forward Kristina Nelson, who then went the line for an and-1, putting the Irish up by 41 for Notre Dame’s largest lead of the game.
“I thought Koko gave us some great minutes off the bench, as always. Just great energy, great momentum, shot the ball well, really settles us down when she’s in the game,” McGraw said of Nelson.
McGraw gradually pulled her starters in favor of her bench, and she said after the game she felt her players had a very successful night.
“I thought our walk-ons played really well tonight,” McGraw said. “All three of them did some good things. I thought they were focused defensively, they knew the game plan, they did a really good job. As you can see, the whole starting unit was so happy when they scored.”
Freshman guard Nicole Benz capped off the scoring for the evening, picking up her first career bucket on a 3-pointer with 37 seconds remaining in the game.
McGraw said she has been pleased with her squad’s offense all season, especially since the loss to Louisville, but she has been happy with the returns she has seen on defense as well.
“Offensively, we’ve been pretty consistent all year long. I think we lead the conference in field-goal percentage,” McGraw said. “We get pretty good shots. I think we work together well. We’re unselfish, we got a lot more inside touched in the last game than we did tonight, but we still scored 49 points in the paint, so that was pretty good. And then defensively, we’re just more committed. I think we’re playing harder on defense.”
The Irish will return to the court Sunday when they take on Duke at 1 p.m. in Durham, North Carolina.