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ND Women’s Basketball

Ogunbowale and Shepard hit 1,500 points in Irish win

| Friday, February 16, 2018

On Thursday night in Charlottesville, Virginia, No. 5 Notre Dame continued its impressive play as of late, defeating the Cavaliers by a score of 83-69. After opening up the game on a 20-2 run, the Irish (24-2, 12-1 ACC) were able to control the game the rest of the way to earn their ninth-straight victory.

In the early going, Notre Dame made its presence known on the inside as Muffet McGraw’s squad attacked the basket and hit four of its first five shots. By the end of the first quarter, the Irish led 27-11, and they only extended that lead in the second quarter. Leading the way early on in the second was junior forward Jessica Shepard, who scored the team’s first eight points in the period, part of her 15 on the night. Notre Dame led 37-16 just midway through the second quarter with 30 of its 37 points coming inside the paint. Head coach Muffet McGraw noted the team’s fast start gave the Irish a big advantage.

Sarah Olson | The Observer

Irish junior forward Jessica Shepard goes up for a layup during Notre Dame’s 94-62 win over North Carolina on Feb. 1 at Purcell Pavilion.

“I’d like to do it every game. I don’t think it’s a challenge at all because I think this team is focused and they know what they have to do,” she said. “With the way we can score, we’re going to be tough to beat when we get that kind of lead.”

As the game went on, Notre Dame began to show more of its offensive repertoire and got scoring from a number of key players. Sophomore guard Jackie Young showed off her playmaking ability 11 points and eight assists in the victory, and junior guard Marina Mabrey provided a solid performance as well, knocking down four 3-pointers on the way to a 16 point night. The star of the night for the Irish, however, was junior guard Arike Ogunbowale, who posted 27 points on the night as well as eight rebounds.

“I think it keeps the defense on their toes when people in all different positions can score,” Ogunbowale said postgame. “They have to honor everybody and there can’t be a lot of help side because we can score from all different areas.”

In addition to the win, the night proved to be particularly special for both Ogunbowale and Shepard, who passed the 1,500 career point milestone in the game. McGraw commented after the game about how important the two players have been to the team.

“Arike, she’s done so many great things for us in the three years that she’s been here. She is somebody that is just electric when she gets the ball in the middle of the floor, you know great things are going to happen,” McGraw said. “She’s a really good passer, she’s really worked on her three-point shot this year. She’s really a difficult matchup for anybody and that’s something we try to exploit whenever we can.

“Jess really started out great. She’s done so many great things and I don’t know where we would be without her … She’s capable of a double-double every single night, and she’s another tough matchup for the defense.”

Moving forward, the Irish are still tied with Louisville for first place in the ACC with just three games to go. Notre Dame will next play on the road against Boston College on Sunday before a pair of home games against Virginia Tech and North Carolina State next week to close out the regular season. As her team looks to wrap things up, McGraw feels good about the position her team is in, even in what has been an extremely talented conference this season.

“We’ve got the best conference in the country. I think we’ve got a lot of really good teams … I think it’s so incredibly competitive and there’s just not a game that you can look past, so I think the ACC is as strong as it’s been since we’ve been in,” McGraw said.

“We’re in a great place right now. I think tonight we had some foul trouble that we haven’t really had to deal with, so we got to play the bench a little more which was good. Offensively, I think we can score in a lot of different ways. I’d like us to be a little more cognizant of the mismatches, I thought we could’ve done a little better job there, but overall, I’m really pleased with where we are.”

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