ND Women’s Basketball
Ogunbowale-less Irish prevail in road opener over Fordham
Observer Sports Staff | Wednesday, November 6, 2019
The Notre Dame women’s basketball season tipped off Tuesday night as the Irish travelled to the Bronx to take on Fordham. The match saw the debut of four new Irish faces: graduate transfer guards Destinee Walker from North Carolina and Marta Sniezek from Stanford, as well as two freshmen, guard Anaya Peoples and forward Samantha Brunelle, both of whom were 5-star recruits and McDonald’s All-Americans in the 2019 class.
In fitting fashion, the freshmen would be the first Irish players to register points in the 2019-20 season. Brunelle hit a layup off an assist from junior center Mikayla Vaughn in the first minute of the game to knot the score at 2-2, then Peoples followed with her own layup off another Vaughn assist almost two minutes later. Walker would score her first points as a member of the Irish with just under two and a half minutes left in the first quarter off a feed from Brunelle.
Notre Dame and Fordham traded baskets in the first period with neither team able to gain the upper hand, leading to five ties and five lead changes in the stanza. Brunelle led the Irish with seven of their 16 first quarter points, while adding two steals to her stat line.
In the second quarter, Notre Dame finally managed to break away from the Rams. The Irish ripped off 13 straight points to start the period as part a 15-0 run spanning the first and second quarter. Two layups apiece by sophomore guard Kaitlyn Gilbert and Vaughn pushed Notre Dame to a 29-14 lead with 3:50 left in the half.
The Rams finally broke an eight-minute scoring drought with two consecutive three pointers to trim the lead to single digits, but Brunelle, Walker and Vaughn helped stretch the lead with a 3-pointer, a jumper and a layup, respectively, to give Notre Dame a 36-24 advantage going into the intermission.
Youth shown through for the Irish in the second half. Whereas Notre Dame played their best in the latter halves of games last season, the Irish did just enough to get out of the Bronx with a win.
The Rams hit only one layup in the third quarter but sank some jumpshots to stay in the game. Even so, the Irish managed to tie Fordham in points in the quarter, maintaining their 12-point lead going into the fourth. Then the Rams woke up.
An 8-0 run fueled by two 3-pointers and a layup by the Rams cut the score to 47-43, but Brunelle gave the Irish a slight cushion with a layup to increase the lead to six. Two straight buckets by Gilbert ballooned the lead back to 10, but Rams junior guard Kendell Heremaia hit two straight threes of her own to trim the margin back down to four with 2:27 remaining in the game. However, the Irish managed to collect a defensive rebound on the Rams’ next possession and drained the clock enough to force Fordham into fouling.
Walker sank four free throws with the clock dying down in the fourth to make the score 57-53 in favor of the Irish. After a Rams layup, Peoples was fouled and went to the line with nine second remaining. The freshman sank her first free throw and missed the second, but recovered one of her three offensive rebounds on the night off her own miss, then went one for two once more to give the Irish a four-point lead. Gilbert would steal the ball back and make one of two free throws to give Notre Dame the 60-55 decision.
For the Irish, Walker recorded a team-high 10 rebounds while Vaughn and Peoples chipped in with nine and seven boards, respectively. Sniezek led the Irish with six assists and three steals while Brunelle and Gilbert, along with two Rams players, tied for the game-high in points with 14 apiece.
The Irish will make their home opener against Loyola Maryland Friday at 6:30 p.m. in Purcell Pavilion.