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Tuesday, April 16, 2024
The Observer

Irish offense surges past Cavaliers in fourth quarter

No. 8 Notre Dame scoring 82 points against Virginia's ACC’s leading defense, who had held Virginia Tech to 27 points earlier in the week, would typically be enough for a comfortable victory. But the Irish struggled on defense as the Cavaliers kept the game close, with Notre Dame eventually pulling out an 82-74 victory.

Although Virginia (14-7, 3-5 ACC) boast the nation's leading 3-point defense, the Irish (20-3, 8-1) started hot from outside the arc. Sophomore guard Arike Ogunbowale scored three 3-pointers in just over two minutes, with sophomore guard Marina Mabrey making two and freshman forward Erin Boley making one later in the quarter. The Irish started 6-of-6 from three, building a 22-17 lead by the end of the first period. Irish head coach Muffet McGraw said despite Virginia’s defensive record, she was confident in her team’s ability to generate good shots.

“Playing at home, I thought if we could figure out their traps we’d get a lot of open shots, and if we could make them then we’d be able to score,” McGraw said. “I didn’t think we’d be giving up 74, though.”

Mabrey credited Ogunbowale's hot start with kickstarting the Irish offense.

Irish freshman forward Erin Boley guards a driving Virginia player during Notre Dame's 82-74 victory over the Cavaliers on Sunday.= at Purcell Pavilion.
Irish freshman forward Erin Boley guards a driving Virginia player during Notre Dame's 82-74 victory over the Cavaliers on Sunday.= at Purcell Pavilion.
Irish freshman forward Erin Boley guards a driving Virginia player during Notre Dame's 82-74 victory over the Cavaliers on Sunday at Purcell Pavilion.

“Arike was making every shot,” Mabrey said. “She got us going off and I think people were attacking better and we were making all of our shots.”

The Irish surpassed Virginia Tech’s total against the Cavaliers on Thursday two minutes into the second quarter with two free throws from freshman guard Jackie Young, and soon began to pull away with an 11-2 run to set up a 44-36 halftime lead.

Virginia fought back to start the third quarter, and tied the game at 44-44 three minutes into the second half on the back of three steals within 35 seconds. Notre Dame returned their lead to double-digits however, with a 15-4 run, and ended the third quarter leading 61-52. Yet again, the Cavaliers cut back the Irish lead, bringing the game within three points at 61-58 and tying the game at 63-63. McGraw said her team repeatedly led their opponents back into the game because of poor defensive effort, which has been a theme all the season.

“It happens all the time,” McGraw said. “Our mindset is, ‘we’re going to outscore you. We don’t care how many you score, we’re going to score more.’ And that’s a terrible, terrible mindset to have. We just don’t have that defensive effort in us. I think Mychal Johnson does, but she’s out right now, Ali Patberg does and Lindsay certainly does, so we’ve got three guards who can really go up and defend, but we can’t play them all together right now.”

“I’ve tried subbing, but that doesn’t work because they know they’re going to go back in. So it’s been really difficult trying to find somebody who are really wants to defend, to rebound, to show that toughness — taking charges, getting loose balls. That’s why we’re [20-3] and not 22-0.”

Although the Irish opened the lead back up to 72-65, inconsistent foul shooting kept the game alive until Mabrey’s free throws with 13 seconds left sealed the Irish victory. With the Irish only making 21 of 32 foul shots, McGraw said her team’s free throw shooting was a disappointment.

“I was disappointed with the free throws,” McGraw said. “You can’t go up there and make one of two. You have to go up there and be able to make free throws, and that’s why our game plan was, ‘give Marina the ball.’ She’s our best free throw shooter, we had to get it to her and they were going to try and take that option away and foul a not as good free throw shooter.”

Junior forward Kathryn Westbeld started the game on the bench because of an injury that kept her out against Boston College and North Carolina. Despite only playing nine minutes, McGraw said she was impressed with Westbeld’s performance.

“We wouldn’t have won the game without Kat,” McGraw said. “She showed so much toughness, she was really in a lot of pain. That shot she made at the end of the shot clock was huge, she’s such a good facilitator at the high post, we know she can get a rebound. She only played nine minutes but she got two assists, no turnovers, four points.”

“I was not supposed to play her today. We could use her if we really had to, and we got to that point, I looked to the bench, I saw her and said, ‘are you ready to go’ and she said, ‘absolutely.’”

The Irish will next be in action on Thursday, when they meet Virginia Tech at Cassell Coliseum. Tip-off is at 7 p.m.