Feb. 12, 2017
By Leigh Torbin
On a day when the No. 7 Notre Dame women's basketball team's fans painted the sold out arena pink, it would be Notre Dame's work in the paint that propelled the team to victory. The Irish scored 58 out of their 90 points in the paint to fuel a 90-69 win over Georgia Tech on Sunday afternoon in the program's annual Pink Zone game, raising breast cancer awareness.
Marina Mabrey led Notre Dame with 25 points while Arike Ogunbowale had a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds and Brianna Turner narrowly missed a double-double with her 21 points and nine rebounds. The three were tantalizingly close - one Ogunbowale bucket to be exact - away from becoming the first Irish trio to each score 20 points in a game since 1999.
Mabrey's 25 points were just two off of her career high of 27 and also mark the fourth time this year she has had 20 points in ACC play. Ogunbowale's double-double is both the second of her career and her second in three games, joining her 16-point, 10-rebound effort on Feb. 2 at Virginia Tech. The Irish have now had someone record a double-double in four out of the team's last five games as Turner had one against Duke (Jan. 26) and Lindsay Allen had one against Virginia (Jan. 29) in addition to Ogunbowale's pair.
With the win, the Irish remain perfect at home in ACC play at 30-0 all-time, part of an extended run of 40 consecutive home conference wins. More urgently, it improved the Irish to 11-1 this season in league games and lifts Notre Dame back into a first-place tie with idle No. 5 Florida State as the Irish shoot for their fourth consecutive regular-season league title.
Not Like Last Time
Notre Dame and Georgia Tech played on Jan. 2 in Atlanta and produced an entirely different result. The Irish won, but by a score of just 55-38. The 38 Georgia Tech points marked its fewest at home in 12 years while the 55 points is still Notre Dame's lowest offensive output of the year. The 93 combined points scored that night at McCamish Pavilion were only three more than the Irish scored by themselves today.
Arike Ogunbowale (18 points) was the only player for either team to score in double figures that night in Atlanta. Six reached double figures today including three 20-point games, coming Marina Mabrey (25), Brianna Turner (21) and Georgia Tech's Francesca Pan who had 24 today after not scoring a single point on Jan. 2.
On Jan. 2, Georgia Tech had 17 points in the first half. Today, the Yellow Jackets got their 17th point 6:10 into the game. The Irish, meanwhile, scored no more than 17 points in any quarter in Atlanta but eclipsed that sum in each of the four quarters today.
"The first was a defensive battle; this was an offensive battle. I like the defensive battle," Karen and Kevin Keyes Family Head Women's Basketball Coach Muffet McGraw said. "I'd like to hold them but it's great obviously to see us finally get a Big Mac at home."
Today's game marked the first time the Irish had scored at least 88 points at home since Jan. 5 (a 92-72 win over Wake Forest) a well-known offensive benchmark where all of the fans in attendance get a coupon for a free McDonald's Big Mac.
Another Sunday Sellout
Notre Dame consistently enjoys one of the country's best home court advantages as only Gonzaga operates at a higher percent of capacity than Notre Dame's 91-percent mark at 9,149-seat Purcell Pavilion. That number will only go up as Sunday the Irish saw their third sellout of the 2016-17 season as 9,149 packed into the arena.
Notre Dame also sold out its matinee against Virginia on Jan. 29 and the Dec. 7 game against UConn. Today's game is the 51st sellout in Irish history with 45 of them coming since 2009-10.
Big Scoring Games on the Rise
Today's game marked the second one this year where the Irish have had two 20-point scoring games, joining the Jan. 29 game against Virginia where Marina Mabrey scored 26 and Arike Ogunbowale netted 21. These games have continued a trend this season. Last season, Notre Dame recorded a 20-point individual game 16 times. This year, with plenty of basketball left to be played, Notre Dame has produced 15 games with 20 points. This season, Brianna Turner and Mabrey have five each while Ogunbowale has four 20-point games to her credit and Jackie Young has hit that plateau once, Dec. 4 vs. Valparaiso. A year ago, Madison Cable produced six 20-point games while Turner added four and Lindsay Allen had three. Mabrey, her sister Michaela Mabrey, and Ogunbowale had one apiece.
Additionally, Ogunbowale hit the 30-point mark on opening night against Central Michigan (Nov. 11). Notre Dame did not have any 30-point games a season ago.
Turner's 21 today give her 1,307 career points, moving her past the 1,290 of Megan Duffy into 22nd place in school history. The junior is just 12 points shy of cracking the school's top 20 career scorers as Margaret Nowlin stands 21st with 1,312 points and Devereaux Peters is 20th with her 1,319.
Allen's 12 points give her 1,201 for Notre Dame which stands 27th all-time, now ahead of Krissi Davis' 1,194. Allen is 18 points away from the top 25, looking up at 26th place Heidi Bunek (1,202) and 25th place Letitia Bowen (1,219). Although Allen was held to a season-low two assists on the day, she inched up towards the 200 seasonal assists plateau, now with 195 on the year. With five more helpers, Allen would become the second player in school history (joining Mary Gavin) with three 200-assist seasons for Notre Dame. The 195 assists on the year are 10th-best for a single season in Irish history. The Notre Dame seasonal record is 247 by Niele Ivey during the 2000-01 national championship season.
In addition to being the Pink Zone game, this weekend included a 20-year reunion of Notre Dame's 1997 team that became the first in school history to reach the Final Four. Almost the entire team found its way back to Our Lady's University although two of the players still call it home - current associate coach Beth Cunningham and associate head coach Niele Ivey.
Another prominent alumna took in the game from courtside. Jewell Loyd, the 2015 espnW National Player of the Year and the first overall pick in that year's WNBA Draft was in attendance. Loyd was in town to attend the bridal shower of her Irish teammate, Skylar Diggins, yesterday.
One reason for the concentration of scorers is that the Irish are playing with a short bench. Ali Patberg missed the game due to the flu and Mychal Johnson continues to recover from a shoulder injury, leaving the Irish with only nine available players today. Only two out of 26 games this year have seen the entire 11-player lineup ready and available for McGraw to utilize.
Coach McGraw Says
On Marina Mabrey: "She's been really consistent. From the start of league play, she's been very consistent along with Bri and Lindsay. I think those three we've been able to count on almost every night for a certain amount of points. She's really stepped up. She's doing a great job shooting the ball. She's also getting assists and playing a smart game defensively."
Notre Dame plays its final two road games of the season this upcoming week, travelling first to Clemson for a Thursday night game and then No. 20 Syracuse for a 5 p.m. game on Sunday that will be aired on ESPN2.
Leigh Torbin, athletics communications associate director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 2013 and coordinates all media efforts for Notre Dame's women's basketball and men's golf teams. A native of Framingham, Massachusetts, Torbin graduated from the University of Massachusetts in 1998 with a bachelor's degree in sports management. He has previously worked full-time on the athletic communications staffs at Vanderbilt, Florida, Connecticut and UCF.