ND Women’s Basketball
Irish look for consecutive wins at Wake Forest
Observer Sports Staff | Thursday, February 6, 2020
Notre Dame (8-14, 3-7 ACC) will look for consecutive victories for just the third time this season when they travel to Winston Salem, North Carolina on Thursday to take on the Wake Forest Demon Deacons (12-10, 5-6 ACC).
The match comes after the team’s third conference win of the season, which came on Sunday in a gritty 59-51 performance against Georgia Tech in Atlanta.
While this young Notre Dame team has certainly been overmatched at times, the Irish have failed to close out multiple games where they had the lead in the fourth quarter.
Turnovers and defensive breakdowns in critical moments of games sunk the Irish earlier this season. Against Georgia Tech, however, the Irish were finally able to close out a game in the second half. With 5:09 left in the third quarter, the Irish began a 17-4 scoring run and were able to hang on in the fourth quarter.
If the Irish are going to string together some wins as the season progresses, they are going to have to play similarly to the way they did in the second half on Sunday.
Another key for the Irish moving forward will be the play of junior center Mikayla Vaughn, who has certainly provided the Irish with a midseason spark.
Since returning from a right knee injury on Dec. 29, Vaughn has been the most efficient scorer in the ACC, shooting 61.6% from the field in conference play. She has scored in double figures five times since her return, including a career-high 20-point performance on Sunday.
Vaughn has also played exceptionally on the road, recording double-digit first half points four times while away from Purcell Pavilion. Vaughn has provided a young team with strong leadership, especially in light of injuries to key contributors sophomore guard Abby Prohaska and freshman guard Anaya Peoples.
One constant for the Irish this season has been the dependable scoring provided by freshman forward Sam Brunelle. The Ruckersville, Virginia, native and former McDonald’s All-American leads all ACC freshman in scoring, averaging 13.9 points per game.
Brunelle has stepped up her game since fellow freshman Peoples was lost for the year with a torn labrum sustained Jan. 12 against North Carolina State. Brunelle has led the Irish in scoring since that game, averaging 17.2 points per game while scoring double figures in four of five contests.
While Brunelle’s post game has consistently made her a scoring threat in the paint, she struggled from beyond the arc in the first 14 games, shooting just 19%. However, Brunelle has had a hot hand from downtown since the calendar turned, shooting 35% since Jan. 5. Brunelle is averaging 2.5 made threes over the last eight games, which ranks fifth in the ACC during that time.
The Irish seem to be playing Wake Forest at the right time, as the Demon Deacons have lost back-to-back games heading into Thursday’s contest. The Irish are 7-0 all time against the Demon Deacons and are 3-0 in Winston Salem.
Notre Dame and Wake Forest will tip-off at 7 p.m. Thursday. The game will be live-broadcasted on ACC Network Extra.