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ND Women’s Basketball

Irish ride Marina Mabrey’s timely 3-point shooting to victory

| Sunday, March 25, 2018

SPOKANE, Wash. — One minute and 45 seconds into Notre Dame’s Sweet 16 clash with Texas A&M, junior guard Marina Mabrey attempted what would have been a spectacular play.

She faked a pass to her fellow junior guard Arike Ogunbowale.

The Aggies defenders bit on it.

Then, without a glance towards the basket, she shot a 3.

It dropped short. Way short.

And the chants began from the Aggie Yell Leaders.

“Air ball, air ball.”

When she next got the ball, the chants started up again. They remained for the next couple of possessions.

Pretty soon, she had shut them up.

The early miss was one of her two air-balled 3s early in the game, if a shot that appeared to take a deflection but was ruled by the referees to have gone out of bounds straight from Mabrey’s hand is included.

Michelle Mehelas | The Observer

Irish junior guard Marina Mabrey sets up for a 3-pointer during Notre Dame’s 90-84 Sweet 16 win over Texas A&M at Spokane Arena on Saturday.

She’d airball a third, too, all within the first quarter. Albeit that one was a full-court heave in the final second of the period which didn’t count toward her final tally of shots.

But of her other nine attempts that made it as far as the basket from beyond the arc, seven went in.

Mabrey, who also made six 3-pointers against Cal State Northridge in the tournament’s first round, has an explanation for her hot shooting this tournament.

“Um, I practiced for it,” Mabrey said, before giving credit to her teammates. “I think when the shots are open, they’re a little bit easier to make. My teammates are finding me in great positions.”

Aggies head coach Gary Blair said Mabrey’s 3s always seemed to come from inbounds plays.

“They scored 21 points on inbound plays,” Blair said. “That’s the most in history A&M has ever given up in their life. That was the 3. We were defending the 3 and halfcourt offense the best we could against a great team. But 21 points on inbound plays, that was the difference in the ballgame.”

Seven makes is impressive enough on its own: It’s the most 3-pointers of her career and the most for any Notre Dame player since Alicia Ratay against Providence on Feb. 16, 2003. It makes up the vast majority of her 25 points, which was second-highest total for the Irish on the day.

But the timing of the shots she made was just as important as the volume or the efficiency.

The first gave the Irish an early 5-0 lead.

The second gave the Irish a lead of four after the game had been within one score for nearly five minutes.

The third was perhaps the most important of the game, ending an 18-2 run and cutting Texas A&M’s lead down to single-figures.

The fourth came with A&M’s lead the largest it was all game, turning a 13-point deficit into a 10-point one.

The fifth made it a one-score game late in the first half.

And the sixth tied the game. Almost exactly half the game had passed since her early fake-pass and miss, and coming off a screen from senior forward Kathryn Westbeld, Mabrey made the score 49-49. If the Yell Leaders had wanted to remind her of that miss again, Mabrey’s release was too fast, but they were long past the chants.

Michelle Mehelas | The Observer

Irish junior guard Marina Mabrey slots a pass past an Aggies defender during Notre Dame’s 90-84 win over Texas A&M in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament on Saturday at Spokane Arena.

After the Aggies tied the score at 51-51, the final 3-pointer gave the Irish a lead they would not relinquish. Mabrey’s work from behind the arc was done.

Aggies freshman guard Chennedy Carter, who made the difference in her own team’s victory over DePaul in the second round, had no doubt that Mabrey decided this game.

“They had a player that went 7-for-11 for 3,” Carter said. “That’s probably what hurt us the most. She’s one of the best players on the team. We just got to lock down. We let her get open, get in a rhythm. We can’t do that.”

Mabrey admitted she may have gotten lucky with some defensive mix-ups, but praised junior forward Jessica Shepard for giving her opportunities to score.

“I think a few times in transition, they might have mixed up some players,” she said. “Got some shots there. Also, Jess got some good driving kicks. Also, in transition, finding the open player was working for us.”

But Mabrey, as Irish head coach Muffet McGraw would be happy to remind you, has had to do a lot more than just shoot this year. Without a natural point guard on the team, Mabrey has taken over those duties, too. In the final quarter, Mabrey recognized that her teammates Arike Ogunbowale and sophomore guard Jackie Young were making shots of their own and dished out five assists, as the Irish pulled away for the eventual 90-84 victory.

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About Daniel O'Boyle

Daniel O'Boyle is a senior sports writer living in Alumni Hall, majoring in Political Science. He is currently on the Notre Dame Women's Basketball, Men's Tennis and Women's Soccer beats. Originally from Belfast, Northern Ireland, Daniel spends most of his free time attempting to keep up with second-flight English soccer and his beloved Reading FC. He believes Lonzo Ball is the greatest basketball player of all time.

Contact Daniel