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No. 5 Notre Dame Runs Past No. 9 NC State, 95-72

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Jessica Shepard tallied 18 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in the 95-72 win at No. 9 NC State. (Ben McKeown/Associated Press)

Box Score

A 12-0 run during a 1:52 stretch in the third quarter to break a 47-47 tie propelled Notre Dame (24-3 overall, 11-2 in the ACC) to a 95-72 victory at North Carolina State (22-3 overall, 9-3 in the league) Monday night and gave it a half-game lead over Miami and Louisville for first place in the conference.

And speaking of running, the lethal Fighting Irish fast break tallied 37 points compared to only two for the Wolfpack.

All five Irish starters already had achieved double-figure scoring by halfway through the third quarter during the decisive spurt. Senior Arike Ogunbowale flirted with a triple-double while scoring 22 points, handing out eight assists (highlighted by a phenomenal behind-the-back pass to Brianna Turner while saving the ball from going out of bounds) and grabbing eight rebounds, while senior Jessica Shepard (18 points, 13 rebounds) and junior Jackie Young (16 points, 12 rebounds, six assists) posted double-doubles.

Senior Marina Mabrey’s marksmanship continued with a 21-point effort on 9-of-14 shooting from the floor, including 3 of 5 beyond the arc.

NC State never led in the but kept it close the first 24 minutes before a basket by senior guard Mabrey with 6:48 left in the third quarter to make it 49-47 broke the deadlock. It ignited a 34-point third quarter in which the Fighting Irish converted 14 of 21 (66.7 percent) field goals to take a 75-59 lead into the fourth quarter. The advantage was built up to as much as 93-64.

The Wolfpack shot 9 of 14 in the first quarter including 3 of 4 from three-point range (64.3 percent), but was never able to take the lead. After NC State knotted the score at 23 to start the second quarter, Notre Dame went on a 9-2 run with its fast break and built its largest lead of the first half at 38-30 before going into intermission with a 41-36 edge.

NC State cooled down considerably in the second quarter while shooting only 6 of 19 from the floor, but 6-5 freshman Elissa Cunane kept it within striking distance with 16 points (she would finish with a career high 28) while also putting the Irish bigs in foul trouble. Fourteen of Notre Dame’s first-half points came off the fast break.

The Irish host Duke on Thursday night.


Three-Point Play

1. Pieces Of Eight

This was Notre Dame’s eighth victory over a ranked team this year, the most in Division I, and a major reason it is No. 1 in the RPI. Based on this week’s poll, the wins are over No. 4 Louisville (82-68), No. 9 NC State (95-72), No. 10 Iowa (105-71), No. 11 Marquette (87-63), No. 12 Oregon State (91-81), No. 15 Gonzaga (81-65), No. 22 Florida State (97-70) and No. 24 Drake (82-64).

That averages out to 20.8 points per win over ranked teams. Still on the regular season docket is a game at No. 16 Syracuse on Feb. 25.


2. Something Gave

In this “something has to give” matchup, Notre Dame entered No. 1 in the 15-team ACC in scoring offense (87.2 points per game), while North Carolina State was No. 1 in scoring defense (57.2). Especially notable is head coach Wes Moore’s team was sixth nationally in field goal percentage defense (.341).

The Irish tallied 54 points in the second half alone and finished the contest at .526 from the floor (40 of 76). After three quarters it was 31 of 56 (.554). This is the third straight contest Notre Dame reached at least 95 points, and seven times in 13 league games it achieved the 90-point milestone.


3. On The Defensive

On paper, it will show that NC State scored 36 points in both halves, but in reality the defensive pressure in the second half by Notre Dame was far improved, led by Young at the tip of the zone, some triangle-and-two looks inside and aggressive rebounding that triggered the dynamic Irish fast break. It also out-rebounded NC State 25-11 in the second half.

"We played together defensively, we rebounded, we got the break going, and I think when we get going in transition, we can score," head coach Muffet McGraw summarized. "It was the team effort on defense that I was really impressed with."

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