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ND Women’s Basketball

Notre Dame routs Harvard in season opener

| Monday, November 12, 2018

No. 1 Notre Dame defeated Harvard on Friday afternoon 103-58 in defending champions’ season opener. The senior duo of guard Arike Ogunbowale and forward Jessica Shepard combined for 58 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists for the Irish.

The first points of the regular season for the Irish came on a layup from Shepard. However, Harvard would immediately respond, hitting a 3-pointer to get on the board. Nevertheless, Purcell Pavilion would never see the Crimson lead again. The Irish would go on an 11-0 run following Harvard’s three-pointer to go up 13-3.

Following a scramble for the ball on Notre Dame’s defensive half, junior guard Jackie Young would find Ogunbowale on the fast break. Ogunbowale would convert a layup to put the Irish up 15-6. Harvard would respond with its third straight 3-pointer. However, Shepard and Ogunbowale kept answering back.

Shepard continued to find her spot inside the paint, and she delivered results. At the end of the first period, both Ogunbowale and Shepard had eight points apiece and had propelled Notre Dame to a 23-11 lead.

The second period started with a turnover by Harvard. On the ensuing possession, Young would then throw a lob pass half the distance of the court to Ogunbowale who would proceed to catch it and finish off the fast break with a layup.

Harvard’s first bucket of the second period came off of a superb effort by guard Nani Redford. Redford weaved her way through the Irish defense and finished an acrobatic layup with seven and a half minutes left in the half. Moments later, following a missed 3-pointer from Redford, Young would again find Ogunbowale on the fast break. The senior would convert an and-one play to put the Irish up 34-13 with 6:54 left to play.

Harvard would then get hot from beyond the arc, hitting three straight 3-pointers and cutting the lead to 15 with two minutes to go. Ogunbowale would respond with a step-back mid-range jumper before the Crimson hit its fourth straight three-pointer.

With the shot clock turned off, Young would hold the ball then give it to graduate student forward Brianna Turner. Turner would hit a layup with four seconds left in the half. Harvard would rush to get one last shot up, but the Crimson turned it over instead. Shepard stole the inbound pass and managed to get a turnaround jump shot to go in right at the buzzer.

Head coach Muffet McGraw noted that the offense for the Irish was improving despite the 11 first half turnovers and praised the three-point shooting of the Crimson – who hit seven 3-pointers in the first half.

“I thought we gave up a few too many threes, which I think we can improve on,” McGraw said. “[Harvard’s] just a really good shooting team, their inside presence makes it harder to guard the outside. They got into a little bit of foul trouble trying to guard our [forwards] early on, which hurt them a little bit.”

“I was really happy with our offense, I think we’re starting to get going – too many turnovers in the first half – but, overall, a good first game.”

The third period was the most lopsided, with the Irish looking to put the game away for good.

The first score of the second half came from a steal by Ogunbowale which she converted into a fast break layup, despite having three defenders around her. Notre Dame would go on a 10-0 run to start the half, with Ogunbowale and Shepard’s offense carrying the run.

Harvard would finally score after a 3-pointer from senior guard Sydney Skinner, her fifth make from distance, with eight minutes left in the period. The offense of Shepard and Ogunbowale would continue to prove too much however, and the Crimson were unable to keep up.

After a Shepard layup with 6:51 left in the third period, both her and Ogunbowale would be tied with 22 points each.  Ogunbowale however, would go on to score the next eight points for the Irish, putting her at 30 points and giving the Irish a 72-36 cushion halfway through the period.

Following that, Ogunbowale would find sophomore center Mikayla Vaughn with a superb pass just out of reach of Vaughn’s defender to create an easy layup for Vaughn.

Shepard would then have her own mini-highlight reel with a score coming off a great threading of the needle by freshman guard Jordan Nixon followed by a block on the following defensive possession. After three periods, the Irish were in cruise control with an 86-45 lead.

In the final period, Notre Dame played most of the ten minutes with the reserves. Nixon, freshman guard Katlyn Gilbert, freshman guard Abby Prohaska, Vaughn and senior forward Maureen Butler all got minutes in the final period.

Young – who has a broken nose and wore a face mask in the first half but decided to take it off for the second half – scored the first points of the fourth period, finishing an and-one play. McGraw said the coaching staff is hoping that this injury won’t require surgery at the of the year.

Harvard would have a few bright moments, after running the same play to success twice in a row. The Crimson’s Skinner got inside the arc and drove to the rim only to deliver a pass to junior forward Jeannie Boehm on back-to-back possessions. Both plays would put Harvard down 91-49 with seven minutes left in the game.

The game would only see one score for almost four minutes of action, with Harvard breaking the dry spell with a pair of free throws with 3:16 left in the final period.

The Irish would crack triple digits off a Vaughn layup with a tad over a minute left. At the end, Harvard was held to 29.2 percent shooting from the field and Notre Dame shot 55.2 percent on 37-67 shooting. In addition, the Irish crashed the boards well, out-rebounding the Crimson 55 to 30.

Other than Ogunbowale and Shepard, Turner and Vaughn scored in double figures as well. Turner had 11 points and scored a double-double with 11 rebounds. Vaughn had 12 points on 6-7 shooting and six rebounds.

The Irish finished with 16 turnovers, many of them coming off bad passes in transition. Nevertheless, the team had 24 assists and McGraw liked the unselfishness of the team, noting that the passing can be improved but that the offensive mentality of the team is in a good place.

“I think we’re a really unselfish team,” McGraw said. “I like the way [the players are] looking for each other, I think we’re playing together. I like the transition mistakes because we’re trying to push the ball, we had people up and down the floor, pass wasn’t exactly right, we can work on that. But the decision making I thought was good.”

On Monday against the University of Pennsylvania, the Irish will unveil their 2018 Championship banner. Shepard is eager to see the banner, but noted the Irish are not dwelling on the past, instead choosing to focus on this season.

“We kind of made our mark on history at Notre Dame which is a great university so, to just have done that and say that we’ve done that is pretty cool,” Shepard said. “But we’ve definitely put that behind us and we’re focused on this year.”

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