InsideNDSports - No. 2 Notre Dame Stunned At North Carolina State, 70-62
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No. 2 Notre Dame Stunned At North Carolina State, 70-62

Marina Mabrey scored 11 of her 22 points in the fourth quarter, but the Irish could not make up a 19-point deficit.
Marina Mabrey scored 11 of her 22 points in the fourth quarter, but the Irish could not make up a 19-point deficit. (UND.com)

Never take victory for granted, no matter how easy and regular it might have seemed in the past.

Despite a 57-1 record in its three years in the Atlantic Coast Conference — 47-1 in the regular season and 10-0 in the postseason — Notre Dame opened year 4 of league play with a 70-62 loss at North Carolina State on Thursday night, thus ending its 35-game winning streak in the ACC. The Irish dropped to 12-2 overall while the Wolfpack are now 11-3.

Last February, the Irish dispatched NC State, 82-46.

The first quarter had easily been Notre Dame's strongest this season while outscoring its first 13 opponents by 119 points, but this time the Irish fell behind 18-7 and could never recover. They trailed 20-13 after the first quarter and were behind 34-28 at halftime.

The most pivotal stretch, though, was the start of the second half, when North Carolina State opened with a 15-2 run to build a 49-30 cushion. It outscored the Irish in the third quarter 17-6 for a 51-34 lead entering the final 10 minutes.

Highlighted by sophomore Marina Mabrey's shooting — she scored 11 of her game high 22 points in the fourth quarter, including three treys — the Irish chipped away at the deficit and were able to pull within 64-59 on an Arike Ogunbowale bucket with 1:31 remaining. The Wolfpack, who never trailed, iced it by converting all six of their free throw attempts in the final 1:10. Overall, NC State was 14-of-15 from the charity stripe while the Irish were a dismal 4-of-11.

The only other Notre Dame player to reach double-figure scoring was senior point guard Lindsay Allen with 12 points, including the final six of the first quarter. Forward Brianna Turner converted only 3-of-8 from the field for seven points. The Irish bench was not able to provide a spark either, finishing a collective 3-of-12 from the field.

Notre Dame concludes its six-game road swing next Tuesday when it plays at Georgia Tech.

Three-Point Play

1.Taking The Offensive — While this Irish squad has Final Four caliber skill, the first two months has shown they lack overall consistency/flow on offense of the previous six. There has been more one-on-one action than usual. All-America candidate Turner provides a highly valued presence on both ends of the floor, but her repertoire on offense has been limited mainly to lay-ins or alley-oop baskets. It will need to expand some if the offense has to go through her.

2. Quiet Company — During the pre-season, one concern head coach Muffet McGraw did express was that it was “a little too quiet” at times in practice, noting the absence of more vocal figures like the graduated Michaela Mabrey and Hannah Huffman (plus star guard Madison Cable). Allen is the figure that might be turned to pump up the volume, but can it be done naturally and not forced or artificially manufactured?

3. Conference Challenges — With six other ACC teams (in addition to Notre Dame) in this week’s Associated Press Top 25, maybe three league losses in the 16-game conference schedule might be still good enough to capture the crown. Notre Dame does have the advantage of playing No. 7 Florida State (which lost by only two points to No. 1 UConn), No. 8 Louisville and No. 15 Duke at home.

Road games at No. 11 Miami, No. 19 Virginia Tech and No. 25 Syracuse could be even tougher than NC State, although the game with the Wolfpack could serve as a needed wake-up call for the program.

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