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ND Women’s Basketball

Well-rounded starting unit expected to lead Irish over Cavaliers

| Friday, March 1, 2019

No. 4 Notre Dame will close what has been an electric regular season, hosting Virginia on Sunday to finish pre-tournament competition. The Irish (26-3, 13-2 ACC) will look to extend their five-game win streak to six against the Cavaliers (11-17, 5-10 ACC), who have lost three of their last four games, all of them conference matchups.

Notre Dame is coming off of a 30-point rout of No. 17 Syracuse, and it will look to carry their momentum forward into this weekend. Scoring will likely not be an issue, as all five of the Irish starters are averaging 13 points or more per game: Senior guard Arike Ogunbowale sits the helm with 21.3 points per game, followed by senior forward Jessica Shepard at 16, senior guard Marina Mabrey at 14.3, junior guard Jackie Young at 14.1 and graduate student forward Brianna Turner at 13.7. The five players account for 2,198 of the team’s 2,550 points this season, and each of them have scored at least 396 points each. The rest of the eight players on the roster have registered 352 combined points.

Annie Smierciak | The Observer

Irish senior guard Marina Mabrey dribbles down the court during Notre Dame’s 71-89 loss to UConn on Dec. 2 in Purcell Pavilion.

Despite their offensive unit of all five starters, Notre Dame has faltered a few times down the stretch this season, suffering notable losses to No. 2 Connecticut 89-71, unranked North Carolina 78-73 and No. 25 Miami 72-65. The Irish have routed every opponent they have played since their late-season loss to the Hurricanes, winning their five games by an average of 31.6 points, including 23-plus point wins against three top-25 ranked opponents.

Another recent headline of note has been Ogunbowale’s emergence as the all-time leading scorer in the history of Notre Dame basketball — men’s or women’s. Against Syracuse, Ogunbowale continued to extend her record, currently sitting at 2,395 career points, 618 of which she has notched this season. Ogunbowale has been lauded for her performance all year, nabbing the title of ACC player of the week twice — once the week of Nov. 19 and once the week of Dec. 23.

However, Ogunbowale’s success has been in large part due to the help of her teammates, who have contributed in myriad ways. Each of the five starters reigns supreme in a different category. In addition to points, Ogunbowale leads the team in steals at 55, Young leads the team in assists at 139, Turner leads the team in field goal percentage at 62.4, Mabrey leads the team in 3-point percentage at 45.5 and Shepard leads the team in rebounds at 278. Collectively, the Irish have beaten their opponents by an average of 25 points this season, outscoring their opponents 2250-1825 in their 29 games of the season.

Notre Dame is also dominating in the ACC. The team leads the conference in a whopping nine categories: assist to turnover ratio, assists per game, blocks per game, field-goal percentage, free throws attempted, free throws made, scoring margin, scoring offense and 3-point field goal defense.

Coming into South Bend, Virginia will look to improve their road record, which is currently 2-8 on the season. The Cavaliers are led by junior guard Jocelyn Willoughby who is averaging 14 points per game. The game will also be the team’s final of the regular season.

Tipoff in Purcell Pavilion for Notre Dame’s final non-tournament stand is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. Following the conclusion of the ACC regular season, the Irish gear up for tournament play, with the conference championship opening Wednesday in Greensboro, North Carolina. Following the results of the ACC Championships, Notre Dame will await its placement in the NCAA Tournament, to be announced on Selection Sunday the following week.

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