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ND Women’s Basketball

Irish rout Miami to snap four game losing streak

| Monday, January 20, 2020

After four consecutive losses, the Notre Dame women’s basketball team was able to find their second conference victory this season as they routed the Miami Hurricanes at home Sunday. The Irish (7-12, 2-5 ACC) have not been the team they have been in years prior this season but their win on Sunday provided a glimpse of hope looking forward to the future. 

The Irish were able to get off to an early lead in the first quarter behind the length of junior center Mikayla Vaughn who got just her eighth start this season against the Hurricanes (10-7, 2-4 ACC). Vaughn went 3-3 from the field in the first quarter of action and added three rebounds to her stat line. She would pick up another basket, one more rebound and a block in the second quarter and was assisted by a stellar shooting performance from graduate guard Destinee Walker who was 4-7 from the field and 3-4 from behind the arc at the half. Walker and Vaughn had 8 and 13 points, respectively, by the time the first two quarters were in the book. All this offensive efficiency didn’t seem to phase the Hurricanes too much who were only down by one at the intermission. 

Hannah Huelskamp | The Observer
Irish graduate student guard Destinee Walker lays in a basket during Notre Dame’s 76-53 win over the Miami Hurricanes on Jan. 19 at Purcell Pavilion.

The Irish came out of the break with a steam that they did not possess in the first half of play. The Irish absolutely dominated in the third quarter of play. Freshman guard Sam Brunelle would pick up where Walker left off with the hot hand in the second half. Brunelle had just five points at the end of the second but would have 17 at the end of the third. The Irish were able to put up a 20-0 run on the Hurricanes in the third and would run away with the contest from there, as the onslaught was too much for the Hurricanes to overcome in the final 10 minutes of play. 

Additionally the Irish were not satisfied with what they had on the board quite yet. Brunelle would continue to rain down buckets hitting back-to-back threes early in the final quarter. The Irish would not slow down at all once they reached the final stretch and they would be declared winners by a score of 76-53 at the final buzzer. The Irish put the game away with their efficient scoring from the paint, where they found 38 of their points. 

Irish head coach Muffet McGraw praised her team following their victory and reinforced the fact that this team has untapped potential but, after her emotional press conference a few weeks ago, McGraw was pleased to be sitting in the room with a win in the rear view instead of a loss. 

Hannah Huelskamp | The Observer
Irish freshman forward Sam Brunelle looks at her options during Notre Dame’s 76-53 over the Miami Hurricanes on Jan. 19 at Purcell Pavilion. Brunelle finished with the point lead on the court with a total of 25.

“I forgot what this feels like, feels really good. I was really pleased with the third quarter I mean we’ve had some really bad third quarters,” McGraw said. “We talked about guarding [Hurricanes junior guard Mykea] Gray a little bit better in the second half, she had 14 points at halftime, more than half their points. So I thought we did a better job defending her in the second half but I think the biggest thing really was shots just started dropping.

“When shots drop our confidence grows. We play better defensively. We do everything better when our shots are dropping. I thought Sam looked like an all American in the second half. Destinee made some huge shots. [Sophomore guard] Katlyn Gilbert ran the floor, got some easy baskets. I thought [graduate student guard] Marta [Sniezek] was just particularly efficient today and getting everybody in their spots.”

The most impressive aspect of the game as a whole was the ball movement. The Irish notched 23 assists on their 30 total made baskets, which was able to give them a solid cushion after their intense third quarter. Coach McGraw said she is looking for her team to have a newfound confidence heading forward into the second half of the season and soon the inevitable month of March. 

“I think the biggest thing is just them now having the confidence to go into every game — at least the next game — just knowing that this is how we can play,” McGraw said. “We’ve never seen this, we’ve never seen what we can be. We’ve seen glimpses — very small even in games early in the season. We didn’t really play well even if we were able to win so I think this is finally the game where we can feel good about the way we played and the way we executed, the way we defended [and] really the way we did everything. So I think this is the game we can point to to say this is what we can be and now it’s up to us to see if we can maintain that every game.”

The Irish will have their longest break of the season this week before they prepare to face off on the road against Virginia on Sunday.

Editor’s Note: This article incorrectly stated Miami was in the lead at halftime. Miami was down by one at the intermission.

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About Jimmy Ward

Jimmy is a senior at Holy Cross College, where he studies English and sports management. He is originally from Westfield, Indiana. Currently, Jimmy serves as an associate sports editor at The Observer. You can find him at @jimmyyward on Twitter.

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