ND Women’s Basketball
ND receives top seed for ACC tourney as starting five earn conference awards
Observer Sports Staff | Wednesday, March 6, 2019
Just two days after clinching a share of the ACC regular season title after its 37-point win over Virginia, the No. 4 Notre Dame women’s basketball team received additional honors and increased recognition this week. In addition to being confirmed as the No. 1 overall seed in the upcoming conference tournament, the ACC announced Tuesday that all five starters earned all-conference honors, a record high for the program.
Despite finishing the conference schedule tied with Louisville atop the standings, the Irish (27-3, 14-2 ACC) earned the top overall seed for the ACC tournament, having beat the Cardinals (27-2, 14-2 ACC) 83-68 at home Jan. 10. This guarantees them a bye to the quarterfinals, with the bracket currently arranged for the Irish to face the winner of a second-round matchup between North Carolina and Georgia Tech. Although solidly middle-of-the-pack within the ACC, the eighth-seeded Tar Heels (17-13, 8-8 ACC) have proven to give the Irish trouble this year, handing them their second loss of the season at the end of January. The remaining top-four seeds — all of which advanced to the quarterfinals along with Notre Dame — are No. 2 Louisville, No. 3 NC State and No. 4 Miami. Should Notre Dame win its first conference-tournament game, the team will likely face Miami in the semifinals — another team that’s contributed to Notre Dame’s loss column, as the Hurricanes handed the Irish their third defeat of the season a little over a week after they fell to the Tar Heels.
While a deep and competitive ACC field is to be expected, the recent recognition of Notre Dame’s starting unit should signify that head coach Muffet McGraw’s team is in good position for a deep run in the tournament. For the second-straight year, senior guard Arike Ogunbowale and fellow classmate forward Jessica Shepard were named unanimous First Team selections, having been named to both the Blue Ribbon Panel and the Coaches All-ACC first teams. Meanwhile, junior guard Jackie Young, senior guard Marina Mabrey and graduate student forward Brianna Turner all made appearances on second-team lists, with Mabrey and Turner being named to the Blue Ribbon Panel and coaches lists, respectively. Young, receiving honors for the first time in her career, was named to both lists. Additionally, Turner was named to the all-ACC defensive team on her way to being the first Notre Dame player in program history to earn all-ACC honors all four years.
These honors were in response to the impressive showing the Irish have put on this season, centered around the five starters. With every individual averaging at least 13.9 points per game, the starting five have demonstrated their ability to bring something different to the table this season. Ogunbowale, the all-time leading scorer in program history, currently sits at 14th among all scorers in the nation with an average of 21.4 points per game. Down on the block, Shepard has built herself a reputation of being a stat stuffer, ranking in the top-15 of eight different statistical categories and coming up 0.1 rebounds-per-game shy of averaging a double-double. Likewise, Young has become one of the most prolific players in the country, posing a threat to opponents on both ends of the court. She recently set earned her second triple-double of the season against Virginia, setting a record for a single season and tying former guard Skylar Diggins-Smith’s career high. Not one to be left out, Mabrey has distinguished herself as a formidable floor general in her time with the Irish, averaging over eight assists in the last three games and sitting just four made 3-pointers away from owning the program record of 262. Rounding out this core unit, Turner has capitalized on her fifth year, having spent all of last season rehabilitating a torn ACL. Shooting well over 60 percent from the field, the four-time all-ACC defensive honoree has cemented herself among the Irish greats.
McGraw will lean on all five veteran starters, in addition to her bench, Friday when her team prepares to take on the winner of North Carolina and Georgia Tech. Tip off is scheduled for 2 p.m. in Greensboro, North Carolina.