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Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024
The Observer

ND falls to top-ranked Huskies despite Mabrey's 23 points

Through just over two quarters, a depleted No. 3 Notre Dame looked to be matching No. 1 Connecticut blow for blow, behind a 21-point first half from freshman guard Marina Mabrey. But a 17-0 run for the Huskies (6-0) in the second half was too much for the Irish (7-1) to overcome, as UConn defeated Notre Dame 91-81.

Notre Dame was forced to enter the latest installment of the most famous rivalry in women’s basketball without either of its starting forwards: junior Taya Reimer was ruled out with an achilles injury while sophomore and ACC Preseason Player of the Year Brianna Turner missed out due to a shoulder injury. Their absence was conspicuous in the opening minutes, as the Huskies raced to a 10-2 lead, scoring all 10 points within the paint and out-rebounding the Irish 6-0.

But when Marina Mabrey came off the bench, the freshman helped keep the Irish alive, hitting a pair of 3-pointers to trim UConn’s lead to 12-8 before the Huskies pushed their lead back out to nine at the end of the quarter, 27-18.

Freshman guard Marina Mabrey looks to shoot during Notre Dame’s 74-39 victory over Toledo on Nov. 18 at Purcell Pavilion.
Kathryne Robinson | The Observer
Freshman guard Marina Mabrey looks to shoot during Notre Dame’s 74-39 victory over Toledo on Nov. 18 at Purcell Pavilion.

In the second quarter, Marina Mabrey’s shooting continued to be a highlight for the Irish, while her older sister, senior guard Michaela Mabrey contributed offensively as well. The two sisters combined for 25 of Notre Dame’s first 30 points before junior forward Kristina Nelson added a jumper to put the Irish ahead for the first time, by a score of 32-31. A layup from Marina Mabrey brought her to 21 points and gave Notre Dame another lead with 36 seconds remaining in the half, but UConn senior guard Moriah Jefferson put the Huskies back ahead at halftime with a 3-pointer to make the score 45-43. Irish head coach Muffet McGraw said she was impressed with the team’s resilience and the way they recovered in the first half despite missing Turner and Reimer.

“After the start of the game, when they took an eight-point lead, it could have ended badly,” McGraw said. “But we just fought back, and got the lead for a couple of possessions and ended up down by only two at the half. So I think we showed the resilience we have and that it doesn’t take size, we found another way to play and we were very successful with it.”

In the second half, though, the Huskies began to pull away. The Irish found themselves down by seven points with 3:44 remaining in the third quarter when Irish freshman guard Arike Ogunbowale made a layup to make the score 61-56. But Notre Dame didn’t score again in nearly five minutes of play, while the Huskies added 17 points to extend the lead to 78-56. The Irish fought back with a 13-2 run to stay in the game with just under five minutes remaining, but the Huskies were able to close it out with relative ease, winning by a margin of 10 points in the end.

“There were a lot of positives,” McGraw said. “I thought we battled. We never quit. We had a four minute stretch in the third quarter that was the difference in the game. We missed a couple of shots and they were able to convert some and that was it, the game came down to that stretch. I was really pleased with how we shot the ball, I thought our guards on the perimeter were fantastic. They played with poise and confidence. Everybody who came in off the bench, especially Marina [Mabrey] and [Ogunbowale] was fearless.

“The two freshmen came in on the biggest game of the season so far, in a hostile environment and really played well and didn’t show any fear. I was really proud of how they played and how they handled themselves.”

Marina Mabrey was effectively shut down by Jefferson in the second half, adding only two points but still led the Irish in scoring with 23. After impressive showings in previous weeks, McGraw said she felt the freshman was set for a breakout game on the big stage.

“She came from a tournament down in the Bahamas where she was on the all-tournament team, and then after the Ohio State game we really felt like she was about to have a really special game,” McGraw said.

The injuries inside for the Irish had a clear impact, as the Huskies outscored them in the paint 48-30, as senior forward Breanna Stewart scored 28 points and added 10 rebounds for the Huskies.

The Irish will next be in action at Purcell Pavilion on Wednesday at 7 p.m., when they tip off against DePaul.