Balanced Notre Dame Defeats Boston College, 83-73
Four Notre Dame players finished with double-figure scoring, and six overall produced at least eight points in Sunday afternoon’s 83-73 victory versus Boston College at Purcell Pavilion.
Now 7-5 overall and 5-3 in the ACC, the Fighting Irish won their second straight and fourth in their last five while beginning to display earmarks of the firepower on offense that made them a superpower from 2011-19. Notre Dame converted a season-high 61.4 percent from the field, notably 17 of 26 (65.4 percent) in the second half.
Junior guard Dara Mabrey led the effort with 21 points on 7 of 8 shooting from the floor and 3 of 4 beyond the arc, to go with her five assists. Sixth-year senior Destinee Walker produced 20 points — 14 in the fourth quarter — and senior center Mikki Vaughn (10 points) had her fourth straight output in double figures.
Freshman star Maddy Westbeld had what has become a typically strong all-around performance with 13 points, seven rebounds and a team high-tying six assists. Sophomore guard Anaya Peoples stuffed the stat sheet with team highs in rebounds (11), assists (6) and steals (4) to go with nine points.
Notre Dame scored 48 points in the paint, the second straight game it eclipsed 40. If there is remorse remaining, it’s that this should be a five-game winning streak. On Jan. 7 at Boston College, Notre Dame had an epic meltdown with a 64-61 defeat after leading 60-48 with just 2:41 remaining.
It is Boston College’s (5-7, 1-7) lone victory in conference play this year, and the pesky Eagles were competitive most of this game as well while converting 13 of 24 from three-point range. However, this time the Irish did a much better job of handling the full-court pressure with both poise and aggressiveness.
Trailing 18-14 at the end of the first quarter and committing three turnovers in the first minute of the second to fall behind 20-14, Notre Dame ratcheted up its intensity on defense that resulted in several steals and transition points during a 17-4 run. Mabrey led that spurt while converting 4 of 4 field goals in the second quarter to help send head coach Niele Ivey’s squad into the halftime break with a 41-33 cushion.
The Eagles tied it up at 49 on back-to-back threes before two Mabrey free throws gave the Irish the lead for good, 55-53, at the end of three quarters. Boston College pulled within 59-58 when Mabrey drained another three on a feed from Westbeld.
With Notre Dame hanging on to a 64-59 advantage, Peoples grabbed a rebound and found Walker on the fast break for a basket-and-one. After a defensive stop, Mabrey then penetrated and kicked out a pass to Walker for a three and 70-59 advantage with 5:10 left.
With the Jan. 7 debacle still fresh in its collective mind, Notre Dame closed out strong and composed.
“It’s a really big confidence boost for this group,” Ivey said. “We’re learning a lot… just having confidence we can finish games, that’s going to carry us for the rest of ACC play.
1. Off-Guard Role Aids Mabrey
Although her job description does center quite a bit on point-guard duties, Mabrey was used in more of an off-guard role against the Eagles. Peoples, Walker and Westbeld all aided bringing the ball up to help take some of the onus off Mabrey, who could concentrate on her own game.
One of the nation’s best three-point shooters the past two years at Virginia Tech, Mabrey is shining again in that category, converting 24 of 51 (47.1 percent) beyond the arc.
“It helped my teammates too, first and foremost,” Mabrey said. “I was off the ball and I was feeling it. Every night might be different (in her role at point)… it just comes down to what I have to do to help our team win.”
2. Defense And Rebounds
Identifying where shooters are and aiding the 5-10 Peoples on the board are the next objectives. In addition to Boston College converting 13 treys, it hauled in 20 offensive rebounds compared to Notre Dame’s nine.
“We left them open a lot,” Ivey said. “[Rebounding’s] just a mentality… there are really no drills you can do. You just have to want to go get the ball, and that’s something we’re going to have to continue working on, being competitive and being better as a defensive group and rebounding.”
3. On The Road Again, And Again, And Again …
Unless the ACC adds in a postponed home game versus Pitt, Notre Dame is currently not slated to play at home again until Feb. 18. The next five feature games at Virginia Tech (Thursday, Jan. 21) and North Carolina (Jan. 24), followed by road trips to No. 22 Syracuse (Jan. 31), No. 2 Louisville (Feb. 7) and No. 3 North Carolina State (Feb. 15).
Suffice to say, this stretch will determine if the Irish are a bona fide NCAA Tournament team this year.
“That’s going to show the character of this group,” Ivey said.
• Learn more about our print and digital publication, Blue & Gold Illustrated.
• Watch our videos and subscribe to our YouTube channel.
• Sign up for Blue & Gold's news alerts and daily newsletter.
• Subscribe to our podcast on Apple Podcasts.
• Like us on Facebook.