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ND Women’s Basketball

Irish celebrate banner night with scrappy win against Penn

| Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Overcoming a slow start, Notre Dame bested the UPenn 75-55 last night, a victory that was prefaced by the unfurling of the 2018 National Championship banner.

Yet despite the margin of victory, the game showed that the Irish (2-0) still have plenty of work to do.

Michelle Mehelas | The Observer
Irish junior guard Jackie Young dribbles the ball during Notre Dame’s 84-74 win over Oregon in the NCAA Regionals on March 26 in Spokane, Wash.

“From the start of the game though, we just … we were bad. Just bad.” Irish head coach Muffet McGraw remarked in the post-game press conference.

McGraw went on to say that the team played like it practiced yesterday — sloppily.

“Offense really not where it needs to be, missing some easy shots,” McGraw added. “But the turnovers, really are just, way too many turnovers.”

The Irish notched a season-high 19 turnovers, six coming from starting guard and junior Jackie Young.

Despite the electricity in the air from the banner drop, Notre Dame struggled to find momentum from tip-off. In the first quarter, the scrappy Quaker (1-1) zone defense prevented the Irish from finding a rhythm. Notre Dame’s leading scorer, senior guard Arike Ogunbowale, struggled for the first 10 minutes, shooting just 1-8 and 0-5 from three.

But graduate student forward Brianna Turner stepped up to carry the Irish offense, scoring eight points, grabbing five boards, tossing an assist and blocking a shot.

The second quarter saw a role reversal between Turner and Ogunbowale — for the next 10 minutes, Ogunbowale notched 11 points, while Turner went scoreless.

“We have chemistry and when somebody else isn’t making their shots, we have about five All-Americans on the court … at the same time. So if somebody’s not knocking them down, that’s when our teammates pick us up,” Ogunbowale remarked postgame.

The second quarter, led by Ogunbowale’s shooting, marked the beginning of Notre Dame’s separating itself. Starting the quarter with a 7-0 run, the Irish kept their foot on the gas and ended the half with their largest lead until that point, 39-27.

Despite the score, the first-half Irish looked deflated, recording nine turnovers and shooting just 13 percent from the three-point line.

The Notre Dame team which came out of the locker room didn’t look much better than the team that went into it. Luckily for the Irish, the Quakers (1-1) started the third quarter by missing their first eight field goals, and didn’t get on the board until about halfway through the quarter.

The Penn defense kept the Irish pressured with a feisty two-three zone, which forced turnovers and contested shots. The Irish continued to struggle from distance in the third quarter, ending the period just two-for-10. They kept themselves in the game, however, with solid rebounding, mostly at the hands of Turner.

“Even if we’re not knocking down shots, we always want to be going in to rebound,” Turner said. “So whether they’re going in or not going in, its pretty obvious, what I try to focus on.”

Penn ended the quarter shooting 34.1 percent compared to Notre Dame’s 48 percent, and the Irish took advantage. With a 60-42 lead their favor, Notre Dame began the final quarter looking to retain their dominance. With Turner cleaning things up in the post, the offense hitting stride with an 8-0 run, and the Quakers hitting a four-and-a-half-minute scoring drought, the Irish secured their win.

Another positive from the night was a solid performance by freshman guard Abby Prohaska, who is emerging as an important piece of this Irish squad.

“She (Abby) is, brings us so much energy and she’s just — today, I thought, she was in passing lanes. She was helping. She was doubling. She did everything that we talked about at practice.” McGraw remarked. “I was really happy with her tonight. I think she’s going to add a lot, a lot to our defense. She took [a] charge and tried to get a couple more. I’m really happy with her.”

Freshman guard Jordan Nixon also had a positive impact on the court despite going scoreless, running the point and recording two steals and two assists in 23 minutes.

With their title banner now hanging in the rafters, Notre Dame will look to go all the way for the second year in a row.

“I think it (the banner dropping) was just the visualization of our hard work last year,” Ogunbowale said. “Gonna see it up there every day, every game, every practice.”

The Irish will hit the court again this Saturday when they leave home for the first time to face non-conference opponent DePaul. Tip-off is scheduled for 2 p.m.

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