A Saturday basketball doubleheader is in store for Notre Dame against the University of Louisville.
At 2 p.m. on CBS, the No. 19-ranked men face the No. 8 Cardinals at the KFC Yum! Center. First, though, at noon head coach Muffet McGraw’s No. 3-ranked (28-3) women take on No. 12 Louisville in the semifinals of the ACC Tournament in Conway, S.C.
The latter was made possible with a 76-59 victory over Virginia in the quarterfinals to expand the Irish winning streak to 12 and improve the overall record to 28-3. Meanwhile, No. 14 Louisville, edged No. 17 North Carolina State, 59-58.
Sophomore guard Arike Ogunbowale and junior forward Brianna Turner paced the Fighting Irish with 19 and 16 points, respectively, while sophomore guard Marina Mabrey chipped in with 13 points and four assists.
However, the top story was another stellar all-around performance from senior point guard Lindsay Allen, who is scheduled to tie Skylar Diggins for most career games played at Notre Dame (144) tomorrow, all of them starts. Allen became Notre Dame’s and the ACC’s all-time assist leader with 10 versus Virginia to go with 12 points, four rebounds and four steals (and only one turnover in 38 minutes). Allen’s assist total is now 788, eclipsing 1984-88 Notre Dame guard Mary Gavin on the all-time Irish career chart and Virginia’s Sharnee Zoll from 2004-08 in the ACC.
The Cavaliers, who dropped to 19-12 but upset No. 8 Florida State two weeks ago, provided a strong challenge the better part of three quarters before a 13-4 Notre Dame surge at the end of the third quarter and start of the fourth provided the separation needed.
Notre Dame held a 36-32 halftime lead and was up 55-47 with seconds left in the third quarter before Allen drove and tallied right before the horn to provide a 10-point cushion. The fourth quarter began with a basket by Irish freshman forward Erin Boley (eight points in her seventh start) on a sharp pass from Allen, a three-point conversion by Ogunbowale, a basket-and-one by Turner and another trey, this time by Boley, to give the Irish their largest advantage at 68-51, a margin that would hold at the end.
The Irish finished with only eight turnovers compared to Virginia’s 17.
1.Emergency Relief — The plan, if possible, was not to play junior forward Kathryn Westbeld, still listed “day-to-day,” so she could rest her ankle injury she’s had since mid-January and avoid playing three games in three days. After Virginia tied the game at 30 with 2:39 left in the first half, McGraw used her “in case of emergency, break glass” option. About 10 seconds after entering the game, Westbeld converted a short jumper to put the Irish ahead for good. She followed with two defensive rebounds and another basket to make it 36-30.
Fortunately, Westbeld didn’t play too much (10 minutes). Her presence/passing in the high post has significantly facilitated the Irish offense in the past month while playing with the injury.
2. Cardinals Seek To Avenge Loss — Notre Dame defeated Louisville 85-66 on Feb. 6 at the Purcell Pavilion on the strength of the best Irish quarter of the year when they out-scored the Cardinals 31-14 in the second quarter. The Irish also tied the school record for fewest turnovers in a game (3), with the first not coming until 1:25 left in the third quarter. However, Louisville was handicapped by the absence of 6-2 forward Myisha Hines-Allen, the Preseason ACC Player of the Year who played only one minute off the bench while attempting to recover from a knee injury. A lot of the scoring load had to fall on All-America candidate Asia Durr, who finished with 31 points. Hines-Allen scored 16 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in Friday’s win over North Carolina State, while Durr tallied 28 points.
3. Defensive Doings — After shooting 14-of-27 from the floor in the first half for 51 percent (2-of-3 from three-point range), Virginia finished the contest shooting only 41 percent with a 7-of-24 performance (29.2 percent) in the second half. The Irish defense, which came under heavy criticism for its effort by McGraw a few weeks ago, is far from dominant but has become more efficient and productive, with sophomores Mabrey and Ogunbowale especially playing more consistently on that end.
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