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Wednesday, June 19, 2024
The Observer

Notre Dame opens season with blowout win

Arike Ogunbowale led the No. 1 Irish to a commanding 107-47 victory over Central Michigan in their home opener and first round of the Preseason WNIT tournament.

The sophomore guard tallied a career-high 30 points, the most from a single Irish player since Jewell Loyd scored 31 in 2015. Ogunbowale was perfect from beyond the 3-point line, something the Milwaukee native mentioned she spent much of the offseason working on.

“I shot a lot [of 3-pointers], because freshman year they sagged off on me a lot,” Ogunbowale said. “I knew they would probably start this year thinking I didn’t take as many threes, so now they really have to play me fair. They have to guard me on the three and guard me driving. … I think my teammates were just finding me. It was a good day. I mean, they were a great team, they played great defense, but it was just a great day.”

The Irish (1-0) scored the first points of the game 10 seconds in and maintained the lead until the final buzzer. Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw felt that her team dominated the Chippewas (0-1) offensively.

Irish sophomore guard Arike Ogunbowale fires a shot from the three-point line in Notre Dame’s 129-50 win over Roberts Wesleyan on Nov. 3.
Bridget Usher | The Observer
Irish sophomore guard Arike Ogunbowale fires a shot from the three-point line in Notre Dame’s 129-50 win over Roberts Wesleyan on Nov. 3.

“I thought that was a great first game for us,” McGraw said. “Defensively, I think we really set a tone early. I thought [senior guard] Lindsay Allen came out, really controlled the pace of the game and really set a tone for what we wanted to do. I think our defense through three quarters was really phenomenal. And to watch offensively, how we just, I mean, we just really were clicking. I think Arike was in a zone tonight … not on defense, but she was, offensively, she was definitely — career-high, just outstanding game.”

Allen totaled 13 points with eight assists and five rebounds. McGraw felt that Allen played an intelligent game and took advantage of the opportunities the Chippewas handed her.

“[Allen will] have to take what the defense gives her,” McGraw said Sunday. “I mean, they were giving her wide-open jumpers at the beginning of the game and she can make that shot. I mean, she’s a pass-first point guard, but if you give that opportunity, she’s gonna score. She can score. So, I think it was good. [Junior forward Brianna Turner] wasn’t open on the roll, so Lindsay was open on the jumpers. So, I think she was very smart in taking what they gave her.”

Junior guard Mychal Johnson racked up more minutes than any of her teammates after starting in place of sophomore guard Marina Mabrey. McGraw felt that coming off the bench motivated Mabrey, allowing her to pick up 17 points.

“[Mabrey] wasn’t ready in the walkthrough,” McGraw said. “So, we went with Mychal, got that defensive side of things going. I thought [Mabrey] really responded well to coming off the bench. I was really pleased with how she handled it.”

Freshman forward Erin Boley and sophomore guard Ali Patberg each made their regular season debuts for the Irish Friday. Boley scored eight points, snagged two rebounds and picked up three assists in her 25 minutes on the court. Patberg, who missed last season with a torn ACL, had three rebounds and three assists. McGraw feels that Patberg is improving and has done a good job at being focused on developing in her role as a passer.

“I think she’s right where she needs to be,” McGraw said Sunday. “I think that she is coming along. She’s getting better every day. She’s learning the offenses, she’s learning the nuances of the offense. She’s figuring out where everybody needs to get the ball. I think defensively she’s picking things up. She’s working really hard. I’m happy with where she’s heading. … I think she’s just trying to get settled into her role as the passer and the one delivering the ball. So I think it’s gonna be a while until the shots start.”

Despite holding the Chippewas to fewer than 50 points, McGraw felt there are still improvements the Irish need to make on the defensive side of the ball.

“We forgot a couple of things that we were trying to do,” McGraw said. “We were trying to trap a little bit more in certain situations and we didn’t do that well, so we can still work on that a little bit more. I think the zone was pretty good. We gave up some [3-pointers], so I think we can still work on that, but offensively I think we executed really well. I think defensively we probably still had a couple of holes.”

While the Irish dominated Central Michigan, McGraw knows that their next opponent, Fordham, could pose a challenge Monday.

“They’re a very good team, very well coached,” McGraw said. “They’re very fundamentally sound. They’ve got a great defense; they are a team that really likes to execute their offense. They’re gonna run the stuff. I think they, well they could try to slow us down.”

McGraw noted that Notre Dame’s depth will be an asset against the Rams (1-0), as most teams focus their energy on neutralizing the threat Turner poses, although the Irish want to get the ball to her more often.

“I think that teams come in trying to take one person away and I think they find that we have a lot of weapons,” McGraw said. “I think that we’re incredibly physical, the last game looked very, very physical and our guards were able to really get loose and they played really well. Inside, it was a battle. A very physical battle. I think [senior forward Kristina Nelson] did a really good job. I don’t think we got the ball to Bri as much as I wanted to, she only played 19 minutes, but I’d like to give her the ball a little bit more.”

Also of note, Irish freshman guard Jackie Young, who missed the Central Michigan game with an injured thumb, will sit out versus Fordham and will likely be questionable for Thursday's game.

The top-ranked Irish will look to embark on a winning streak Monday at 7 p.m. as they take on the Rams in the Preseason WNIT quarterfinals at Purcell Pavilion.