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Notre Dame struggles majorly in Virginia, loses 90-60

| Monday, January 27, 2020

A perennial national title contender, the Notre Dame women’s basketball team has simply not been the same this winter after seeing all five of their starters drafted in the first 19 picks of the 2019 WNBA draft. After going 2-10 in a 12-game stretch, the Irish responded with a 23-point win at home over Miami.

Allison Thornton | The Observer
Irish graduate student guard Marta Sniezek looks to get around a block during Notre Dame’s 72-69 loss to Michigan State on Nov. 14 at home.

They had one week off heading into a road contest with Virginia and a chance to start climbing the ACC standings. At 2-6 in ACC play, the Cavaliers were just a half-game better than the Irish, but unfortunately for the defending national runners-up, these two squads did not look evenly matched for much more than about six minutes. With 3:46 left in the first, the Cavaliers ripped off a quick 6-0 spurt to take a 17-9 lead.

After falling behind 7-0 early, the Irish rallied within 11-9, but that was the closest they would get all game. Two minutes and 30 seconds of game clock expired before Notre Dame scored, and in that time Virginia notched six more points to gain a more comfortable edge. Irish freshman forward Sam Brunelle’s three ended the run, but a Cavaliers’ jumper preceded the horn of the first quarter to sink the Irish into a 19-12 deficit after just 10 minutes of play.

Notre Dame would make just three free throws in the first four minutes of the second quarter, during which time Virginia seemingly couldn’t miss, extending their lead to 31-15.

The Cavaliers steadily pulled away; Notre Dame shot over 50% for the rest of the quarter, but it wasn’t enough to keep pace with Virginia who extended their lead to 24 points before the halftime buzzer. The Cavaliers then iced the game in the third quarter to ensure their third ACC victory of the year.

Both offenses would warm up in the second half, but while the Irish poured in a respectable 17 points, the Cavaliers became scorching hot, lighting up the scoreboard to the tune of 34 points and a 53-29 halftime lead. Things did not get better for the Irish, as the Cavaliers outscored Notre Dame by another 12 points and put any remnants of doubt away, making the fourth quarter a mere formality. Although Notre Dame won the final quarter 23-17, its effort was far too little and far too late, as Virginia ran away with the 90-60 victory.

Virginia put forth a balanced offensive effort — four players notched at least 14 points, led by freshman guard Carole Miller with 18. The Irish had some offensive bright spots, namely Brunelle, who grew up 15 minutes away from John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville, Virginia, where the game was played. Brunelle knocked down four triples on her way to 21 points. Sophomore guard Katlyn Gilbert contributed 16 points and graduate student Destinee Walker scored 11 for the Irish, but no other player put up more than five points.

The Irish get to return home for their next contest, but the road does not get any easier as they welcome the No. 5 Louisville to town. Once a premier ACC rivalry, the Irish will enter this matchup as a significant underdog. They’ll need a much more complete effort on both sides of the court to even compete with the Cardinals for longer than a half. The Irish have some promising talent on their roster, but they’ll need to start delivering on that potential if they want to make any kind of noise in the ACC in the second half of their conference schedule.

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