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ND Women’s Basketball

Strong first and fourth quarters pace Notre Dame to 29-point win over Boston College

| Monday, January 21, 2019

It wasn’t the usual second and third quarter beatdown, but it worked nonetheless. Hosting Boston College on Sunday, Notre Dame once again proved how dangerous it can be when firing on all cylinders.

As soon as the ball tipped, the Irish (18-1, 6-0 ACC) made it clear they were looking to exploit their height advantage down low, pounding the ball inside to senior forward Jessica Shepard and graduate student forward Brianna Turner on the blocks, with Boston College’s (13-6, 2-4) lone inside presence being leading scorer, junior Emma Guy. However, the Eagles managed to capitalize on Notre Dame’s sloppy guard play early on, intercepting three lobbed passes in the first quarter and converting on the other end, including a 3-pointer by freshman guard Makayla Dickens that put Boston College up one halfway through the first quarter. Although the rookie posted an impressive 12-point, five-assist performance, including going three-for-five from the 3-point line, she was held scoreless in the second half and seemed rattled after a seemingly unrelenting first half.

Although head coach Muffet McGraw said she wished the team could’ve gotten more use out of the zone defense, man-to-man seemed to be more effective in limiting Dickens from getting open looks.

Annie Smierciak | The Observer

Irish junior guard Jackie Young tries to dribble into the post against her defenders during Notre Dame’s 71-89 loss to UConn on Dec. 2 at Purcell Pavilion.

“I was really disappointed with our guards today,” McGraw said. “To have 15 turnovers, out of 18, you know I thought the rest of the team took care of the ball really well. … I thought the posts really did their job, just really disappointed by the unforced errors and a lot of mental mistakes.”

That lead though would ultimately be short lived, as a put back on the following play by junior Jackie Young regained the lead for the Irish. An 11-2 run by the Irish — bookended by two 3-pointers by senior guard Arike Ogunbowale — gave them a much needed 13-point cushion, considering the struggles they faced later in the game to put the Eagles away for good.

Midway through the second quarter, Guy returned to the bench after picking up her third foul and senior guard Marina Mabrey capitalized on the vacancy, connecting on back-to-back shots from behind the arc, followed by a layup in transition for eight-straight points by the senior. However, after picking up her second foul, Mabrey found herself in trouble, and Boston College managed to close the gap slightly, heading into halftime down 15.

Still in striking distance entering the second half, the Eagles proved they were not going to go quietly. With Guy back in the lineup, Boston College scored four-straight points to keep the game within striking distance. Ogunbowale mounted a response of her own, scoring four straight to match the Eagles and extend the Irish lead back to 13. That back-and-forth trend continued throughout the third quarter as neither team was able to gain momentum and despite a 17-point lead entering the fourth quarter, sparked by a buzzer-beating layup by Ogunbowale to close the quarter, the Irish found themselves in unfamiliar territory, having only outscored the Eagles by three throughout the second and third quarters.

Although the Irish guards continued to struggle to take care of the ball, they managed to bring energy back into the fourth quarter, sparked by Young and Ogunbowale. After scoring following an Ogunbowale free throw, Young blocked a layup attempt by Guy before connecting the outlet pass for Mabrey to knock down the jumper. This series opened a 23-10 run by the Irish that eventually earned them a 29-point win. Young’s team-leading six turnovers and 13 rebounds was indicative of the team’s performance in general — solid defensive efforts and up-tempo offense with scattered moments of careless play and missed assignments.

McGraw said despite Young’s turnovers, she was pleased by aggression and willingness to take the ball to the basket.

Ogunbowale also committed four turnovers to go along with her 24 points, nine of which came from behind the arc.

“I was just taking what they were giving me and they were giving me the 3,” Ogunbowale said. “Luckily I was knocking them down today.”

Despite the turnovers, the balanced performance by the starting lineup, accounting for all but nine of the team’s 92 points was promising for this team as they prepare to take on one of their toughest opponents on the road — Tennessee.

“That just shows that we have great players all around and anyone can score any amount of point at any given time,” Ogunbowale said.

The Irish are scheduled to tip off against the No. 20 Volunteers (12-5, 1-4 SEC) at 7 p.m on Thursday. As two of the premier programs in women’s basketball face off, McGraw will likely rely on her starters to improve from Sunday’s mistakes while carrying their offensive momentum into Knoxville, Tennessee.

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