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ND Women’s Basketball

Seniors, Young lead Irish in offensive takedown of Virginia on Senior Day

| Monday, March 4, 2019

Irish head coach Muffet McGraw discovered the secret to yielding more production from her bench Sunday, as Jackie Young gave up her spot in the starting lineup to allow walk-on senior forward Maureen Butler to start her first-career game on Senior Day.

But when Young entered the game two-minutes-and-four-seconds into the game, she was firing on all cylinders, as the junior guard went on to record a triple-double with 22 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds.

“Jackie wanted to steal the thunder today,” McGraw said of Young. “She came up with a triple-double. Just a great game off the bench. So [she] willingly gave her spot to Butler so she could start. And then came in and had the best game of her season.”

McGraw has spent much of the season encouraging Young to take more aggressive shots, something she clearly took to heart Sunday, as went 3-for-4 from outside the arc and 9-of-13 from the field, shooting nearly 70 percent.

Allison Thornton | The Observer

Irish junior guard Jackie Young dribbles the ball at the top of the key during Notre Dame‘s 103-66 win over Virginia on Sunday at Purcell Pavilion.

“I think that’s just something that I’ve worked on this season, just really getting confidence. There’s no reason I shouldn’t be shooting 3s,” Young said. “I think that’s just me passing up shots and kind of just deferring and letting other people shoot it, but I guess now I’m going to have to step up and be more confident in shooting it.”

For Young, a common theme has been self-confidence. However, her teammates have all the confidence in the world in the leading scorer in Indiana high-school history, both male and female.

“Jackie can literally average a triple-double if she wanted to,” graduate student forward Brianna Turner said of Young. “She’s just that type of player. She’s like the Russell Westbrook of women’s college basketball. She can score, she can rebound, she can get really any stat she wanted to.”

The No.4 Irish (27-3, 14-2 ACC) were in control of the game against Virginia from beginning to end, even without the help of the triple-double.

The Irish defense held strong in the first quarter, holding the Cavaliers (11-18, 5-11 ACC) to just four points until junior guard Jocelyn Willoughby hit a second-chance layup and her and-one attempt to break a long scoring drought, bringing the score to 18-7 for the Irish. However, Irish senior guard Arike Ogunbowale answered with a 3-point jumper from the outside right side to expand the margin to 14 points. While Willoughby was able to score once again on her next chance, Ogunbowale was unfazed, taking the next possession as her own to make another 3-pointer, her second of six on the day.

The first quarter continued in a similar manner, with Virginia attempting to chip away at the extensive lead Notre Dame had built in the game’s opening minutes, but with the Irish continuing to answer and build on the lead. The opening frame was sealed in fitting fashion as Young hit a buzzer-beating 3 on a dish from freshman guard Abby Prohaska to give the Irish a 13-point lead.

In the second quarter, the Irish continued to extend their lead, as Ogunbowale put up eight points in the quarter, graduate student forward Brianna Turner added seven and senior forward Jessica Shepard tallied six, as the team put up 24 points in the quarter to head into the locker room up 53-33 at halftime.

However, the Cavaliers did record 15 offensive rebounds in the first half, something McGraw said she considered unacceptable for her team to allow. The Irish went on to allow just five additional offensive boards in the second half after their halftime adjustments.

“We did talk about that a halftime. It was much better in the second half. I’m surprised you didn’t hear me talking about it at halftime,” McGraw joked.

Notre Dame’s best period came in the third, as is not unusual for the squad. The team put up 30 points in the stanza and held Virginia to just 14. The fans decked out in lime were becoming increasingly aware of Young’s stat sheet, as she began to close in on her triple-double, finishing the quarter with 22 points with nine assists and rebounds.

But it was in the third quarter that the Irish really turned up the heat in the paint, putting up 18 points in the key alone, aided by the pairing of Turner and Shepard.

The Irish did not ease off the gas in the fourth quarter. In fact, a quick jumper by Turner was followed by a made 3-pointer by senior guard Marina Mabrey, who, after her three 3s made against the Cavaliers sits just five off claiming the all-time Irish record for 3-pointers for herself.

The highlight of the quarter, however, may have come with just over six minutes remaining in the game, when Prohaska hit a 3-point jumper from the outside right. While the shot got the bench off its feet, it was followed almost immediately by a second 3-pointer, this time by Ogunbowale just 22 seconds later. The scoring run was not finished yet, though. A brief pause allowed Virginia to make a quick layup, but 27 seconds after Ogunbowale’s first 3, she made a second one, barely giving the fans at Purcell Pavilion time to recover and putting the Irish up 101-55.

With 4:36 remaining, the seniors on the court made their final exit from a court in their white jerseys in a regular-season game, as Mabrey, Ogunbowale, Shepard and Turner took their seats on the bench, allowing Butler, sophomore center Mikayla Vaughn, sophomore forward Danielle Patterson, sophomore guard Nicole Benz and freshman forward Danielle Patterson to fill the court.

The seniors left the court to a raucous standing ovation, going down as one of the most talented classes in program history.

Apart from Young, the only other players coming off the bench to score were Prohaska, who hit a 3, and Benz, who hit a long outside jumper, both of whom brought the Irish bench to their feet.

After the game, McGraw could not communicate sufficient praise for her five seniors, all of whom have contributed to the program in immeasurable ways.

“Statistically, the best class ever, although not in games won. But those seniors are such veterans. They’re such great teammates. We had no drama,” McGraw said. “When you have 12 women, that doesn’t happen very often, so it’s great to see that they took care of things in the locker room. They helped the freshmen come along. It was a big jump there, we had a lot of freshmen and a lot of seniors and they did such a great job of trying to bring them in and get them to understand what we needed to do, so their mentorship, their leadership, they’re so ready for the next level and yet they never came into practice and just went through the motions. They worked hard every day.”

With the win against Virginia, the Irish clinched their sixth-consecutive ACC regular-season title, earning them the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament.

“We just have so many weapons on offense and we’re just starting to peak now. I feel like we’re in a great place heading into the tournament as the No. 1 seed,” McGraw said. “We’re exactly where we want to be.”

The Irish will head to Greensboro, North Carolina, to begin the ACC tournament Wednesday. Last season, the Irish fell to Louisville by two points in the tournament finals, marking the first time since joining the ACC the team did not win the tournament.

“[The No. 1 seed] is expected,” McGraw said. “We were honestly disappointed that we lost the two games that we did. We really wanted to go through undefeated. So I think we still have something to prove.”

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About Elizabeth Greason

Elizabeth is a senior studying civil engineering from New York, NY (yes, the actual city). She is a proud resident assistant in McGlinn Hall and is a die-hard Mets and Giants fan. She is currently serving as assistant managing editor of The Observer and she also has an obsession with golf that is bordering on unhealthy.

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