A marvelous second quarter highlighted No. 7 Notre Dame’s 85-66 victory versus No. 12 Louisville on “Big Monday” at the Purcell Pavilion.
During those 10 minutes, the Fighting Irish (22-3 overall, 10-1 in the ACC) out-scored the Cardinals 31-14, assisted on eight of their 12 baskets, had a 13-6 advantage on the boards and committed zero turnovers while forcing five.
In fact, the Irish had a goose egg in turnovers throughout the first half, didn’t commit their first miscue until 1:25 left in the third quarter and finished with three the entire night, tying the school record set against No. 3 Maryland on Nov. 16, 2007 (oddly, a 75-59 loss).
“I thought there was a mistake on the stat sheet when I saw that,” said Irish head coach Muffet McGraw regarding the lack of first-half turnovers.
Five Notre Dame players scored in double figures, led by junior guard Arike Ogunbowale’s 22 on 8-of-16 shooting (2-of-4 from three-point range). However, the story of the night was excellent performances off the bench from freshman guard Jackie Young (16 points on 6-of-8 shooting, and seven rebounds, four of them on offense) and junior Kathryn Westbeld (14 points on 7-of-8 shooting, four assists and two steals), who is gradually recovering from an ankle injury.
Senior point guard Lindsay Allen added a season high 15 points, eight assists and four steals, while junior forward Brianna Turner tallied 11 points and nine rebounds to go with two blocks and two steals.
Louisville was handicapped by the absence of 6-2 junior forward Myisha Hines-Allen, the Preseason ACC Player of the Year who played one minute off the bench while attempting to recover from a knee injury last week. Meanwhile, starting guard Briahanna Jackson played only five minutes because she was battling back spasms.
Consequently, the Cardinals had to rely heavily on All-America candidate Asia Durr, who finished with 31 points. She and forward Mariya Moore combined for 35 of the 55 shots taken, and tallied 49 of the 66 points.
The Irish trailed 12-9 and didn’t take their initial lead until 3:55 of the first quarter when Young and Westbeld tallied the next six points to give the Irish a 15-12 advantage. From there they played probably their best overall half of basketball this year. Notre Dame doesn't play again until Sunday, when Georgia Tech comes to visit. McGraw is giving the players the next two days off before they regroup, and an emphasis will be put on installing more with the trap zone and press.
“We need a break,” McGraw said. “That road stretch about killed us. You kind of don’t want to break when you’re playing this well, but it’s a great time for it.”
1.Practice Makes Perfect? — Westbeld has not practiced a single day since her Jan. 21 ankle injury in practice that has healed at a slow pace, yet she has been providing a huge spark off the bench. This has McGraw seriously contemplating whether that would be Westbeld’s best role moving forward.
Louisville was the second straight game Westbeld went 7-of-8 from the field, but she also has been a facilitator in the high post with four assists apiece in the last two games, making the Irish tough to guard. Maybe not so much practice helps perfect a game.
“She’s probably the one player on the team that is capable of doing that,” McGraw said of Westbeld excelling without the reps.
2. Young Love — The freshman and former Naismith National Player of The Year Young has not been able to get into a consistent rhythm this season while battling various injuries, but her performance against Louisville flashed her immense promise. She attacked the glass, highlighted by six rebounds in the first half (four on offense), and drove the ball much more aggressively. She bypassed about four open looks from three-point range, but becoming less reluctant to pull the trigger will come with time.
“I’ve been waiting for this game, and I think it’s going to really fuel her confidence,” McGraw said.
When asked if the light bulb is coming on for Young, McGraw replied, “It’s dim, but we’re trying to turn the switch a little bit."
3. Assisted Living — Allen took an uncharacteristic 13 shots from the field (she averages six) while tallyng 15 points, yet her assist total remains at an all-time high with eight more against the Cardinals to go with four steals. In her last five contests, she has handed out 50 assists compared to 15 turnovers.
With 752 career assists, Allen moved past Skylar Diggins for second place, on the all-time Irish chart.
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