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Friday, Feb. 23, 2024
The Observer

Notre Dame grinds through cold offensive night in win

It’s been a long time since Notre Dame has scored 54 or fewer points and still managed to scrape out a win. Ten years and two days, to be exact.

On Jan. 21, 2006, Notre Dame topped Georgetown on the road, 54-42. Thursday night, the third-ranked Irish got the exact same result, this time holding off Georgia Tech in Atlanta to stay undefeated in the ACC.

The Yellow Jackets’ entered Thursday’s game 13th in the conference in scoring defense, allowing an average of 63.7 points per game, while Notre Dame (20-1, 8-0 ACC) owned the top offense by points per game, field goal percentage and 3-point percentage in the ACC.

But head coach Muffet McGraw’s squad never found its groove and shot 39 percent from the field, 12.5 percent from beyond the arc and 41 percent from the free-throw line.

“A lot of shots we normally make — wide open shots — were off,” McGraw said. “We were off tonight, and I just think … we’re in a little bit of a lull right now, but we fought through it.”

A particular area of concern for McGraw were Notre Dame’s struggles from the charity stripe. The Irish made five of their last eight free throws but prior to that had only made 5-of-16.

“I didn’t really think it was the [Georgia Tech] defense,” McGraw said of the team’s offensive woes. “We missed 14 free throws. They really weren’t guarding us at the free-throw line.”

Sophomore forward Brianna Turner led the Irish with 15 points, her third straight game with at least that many, while junior guard Lindsay Allen collected 14 points, her highest output in a month. The two were also the only Irish players to shoot above 50 percent from the field, going a combined 13-for-21.

Irish sophomore forward Brianna Turner dribbles upcourt in Notre Dame’s 79-66 win over Tennessee on Jan. 18 at Purcell Pavilion.
Grace Tourville | The Observer
Irish sophomore forward Brianna Turner dribbles upcourt in Notre Dame’s 79-66 win over Tennessee on Jan. 18 at Purcell Pavilion.

Besides those two, however, Notre Dame slogged through an off night. McGraw said both graduate student guard Madison Cable and sophomore Kathryn Westbeld were hampered by illness the week before the game, and the two combined for just seven points, though they were able to contribute 16 rebounds. On the night, the Irish won the boards, collecting 43 to the Yellow Jackets’ 36.

Defensively, meanwhile, Notre Dame put together its second straight game of 42 or fewer points allowed, a first this season. Turner led the Irish on that side of the court as well, pulling down five defensive rebounds and blocking five shots. Despite missing six games due to injury, Turner still ranks 25th in the nation in blocks.

“It’s great for us to be able to win a game like that,” McGraw said. “Sometimes you have to win ugly, and even though we’re a team that usually likes to look good … it’s great that we had to battle it out.”

Each time Notre Dame seemed poised to break away from Georgia Tech, the Yellow Jackets rallied back behind senior forward Aaliyah Whiteside, who scored 12 points and pulled down eight rebounds.

Georgia Tech never led after the seven-minute mark in the first quarter, but the Yellow Jackets trailed by just six (26-20) at halftime and closed to within two in the third quarter, eventually falling four behind going into the game’s final 10 minutes.

The fourth quarter proved to be decisive, however, as Notre Dame settled down somewhat from the free-throw line and limited Georgia Tech to eight points. McGraw compared the team’s performance in the final quarter to its play against Pittsburgh on Jan. 3, in which the Irish were tied with the Panthers after three quarters but outscored them 16-6 to win.

Notre Dame has a relatively quick turnaround for its next game, as the Irish travel to Durham, North Carolina, to play Duke this Monday. Tip-off is scheduled for 6 p.m.