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Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024
The Observer

Notre Dame hangs on to beat Purdue in overtime, loses Brianna Turner to injury

In the second quarter of No. 1 seed Notre Dame’s NCAA tournament clash with No. 9 seed Purdue at Purcell Pavilion on Sunday, almost everything went right for the Irish.

Almost everything.

The only problem was that the one thing that went wrong was the worst thing Irish head coach Muffet McGraw could have to deal with.

Junior forward Brianna Turner suffered a knee injury that put the game, and her team’s championship hopes, in doubt.

Irish junior forward Brianna Turner goes up for the layup during Notre Dame’s 88-82 win over Purdue on Sunday at Purcell Pavilion.
Irish junior forward Brianna Turner goes up for the layup during Notre Dame’s 88-82 win over Purdue on Sunday at Purcell Pavilion.
Irish junior forward Brianna Turner goes up for the layup during Notre Dame’s 88-82 win over Purdue on Sunday at Purcell Pavilion.

The Irish escaped with an 88-82 victory over Purdue and advanced to the Sweet 16, but now their star player’s status is now in question for the remainder of the tournament.

Although Turner got to the free throw line in the game’s opening seconds, it was the Boilermakers (23-13, 10-6 Big Ten) who opened the scoring, giving the Irish (32-3, 15-1 ACC) their first deficit of this year’s tournament. Purdue continued to hold the advantage through the first quarter, leading 17-13 at the end of the period. Senior forward Bridget Perry and freshman guard Dominique Oden led the Boilermakers offense early, combining for 15 of those 17 points.

In the second quarter, however, the Irish proved why they were given a No. 1 seed. First, it was freshman guard Jackie Young and freshman forward Erin Boley who took over, scoring the first 12 Irish points of the quarter to give Notre Dame the lead. Young said she was determined to make a difference after having a limited impact against Robert Morris on Friday.

“I just knew I had to come out and produce today,” Young said. “I didn’t have a great game last game, so I knew I had to do some things to help my team. I knew that started with getting rebounds because we needed some, and then I knew I had to help on the offensive end and the defensive end.”

Then, sophomore guard Marina Mabrey added eight points in just under two minutes to stretch the Irish lead to double digits. In the closing minutes of the quarter, Turner scored eight points and — with the Irish leading by 14 — looked set to add another basket after catching a lob pass from sophomore guard Arike Ogunbowale while wide open under the hoop.

Turner didn’t extend the Irish lead, however. Her left knee buckled when she landed, and she fell to the floor, eventually walking to the locker room with some assistance from the team’s trainers.

Turner didn’t return to the court for the rest of the game, but the Irish held on to their double-digit lead through the third quarter. Despite their lead, the Irish did not appear to be safe. The Boilermakers set themselves up to get back into the game thanks to fouls from the already-depleted Notre Dame frontcourt. Junior forward Kathryn Westbeld, who already had two first-quarter fouls, picked up one more, while junior forward Kristina Nelson picked up her second of the game in the third period.

In the fourth quarter, the foul count on Westbeld and Nelson became more and more of a concern. With five minutes left in the game, the Irish still led by 10 points, but Westbeld was up to four fouls and Nelson had three. Then, with the Irish on offense, Nelson was called for an illegal screen.

With both Westbeld and Nelson unable to risk another foul, the Purdue flurry began. After Purdue scored eight unanswered points to narrow the gap to two points, Ogunbowale’s layup attempt balanced precariously on the rim before falling to Boilermakers senior forward Bridget Perry. Perry was fouled immediately by Westbeld, meaning the Irish forward would be the second Notre Dame starter to see no more action in the contest. 

Perry made both of her foul shots to tie the game with 32 seconds remaining. Irish senior guard Lindsay Allen drove to the basket on the final possession for the Irish but could not finish. With four seconds remaining after using a timeout, Purdue had a chance to take the game in regulation but couldn’t get a shot away.

McGraw said a combination of mistakes and the absence of Turner led to Purdue getting back into the game.

“It was a little bit of us,” McGraw said. “Lindsay [Allen] drove it, nobody got back [and] they got a layup. Then we took another shot, they got it back [and] they got another layup. They had six points in transition when we were up 10, and that killed us. That was not protecting the rim. That was really bad. They got on an easy run, we’d foul them and they’d make their free throws. They weren’t making tough shots, necessarily — I thought they were making easy shots. And we just couldn’t handle the ball. We had an illegal screen, and then we turned it over. We just completely fell apart offensively.

“It’s just so different without Bri. When you’re in the ball screen, they have to worry about her, and instead we were forced to go one-on-one, and it’s not our game. That is just not our game. We have to go back to the drawing board now and figure out what we’re going to do late shot clock.”

In overtime, with Notre Dame’s inside options limited, Purdue attacked the Irish weakness early and often. The Boilermakers led 78-76 with three minutes remaining.

Irish sophomore guard Marina Mabrey shoots a jumper during Notre Dame’s 88-82 win over Purdue on Sunday at Purcell Pavilion.
Irish sophomore guard Marina Mabrey shoots a jumper during Notre Dame’s 88-82 win over Purdue on Sunday at Purcell Pavilion.

But the Irish had enough to late on to win. Young tied the score and Allen gave the Irish a lead before Mabrey made a steal and banked a jumper to give the Irish a two-score lead with just over a minute remaining.

“That’s a prayer that got answered for us, finally, after we said a lot of prayers on the sideline throughout that game,” McGraw said of the shot. “We sure were happy it went in.”

“I was just thinking, ‘We really need to score right now, and I can’t turn this over. So I’m going to shoot it,’” Mabrey said.

Although Perry answered with two free throws, Mabrey was fouled with 13 seconds left and responded with two free throws of her own to bring the Irish lead back to four. Mabrey, who the Irish have relied on to make late free throws to ice close games against Clemson and Syracuse this season, said her experience in these situations helped her to focus only on making her shot.

“I think being in that position a few times helped me there today,” Mabrey said. “But I’m really just concentrating on the shot, nothing else. Not the score or anything — I’m just trying to put the shot in.”

Ogunbowale then added four free throws in the final eight seconds to seal the win, bringing the game to its final score of 88-82.

The Irish will play Ohio State in Lexington, Kentucky, on Friday after the Buckeyes defeated Kentucky in their second-round game.