March 4, 2017
By Leigh Torbin
CONWAY, S.C. - While a championship game matchup against her sister's Miami Hurricanes did not materialize, Marina Mabrey did everything in her power to ensure that the No. 3 Notre Dame women's basketball team advanced to its fourth ACC championship game in four years. The sophomore scored 26 points and also manned the point guard position for a quarter to lead the Irish to a 84-73 win over No. 14/13 Louisville in the ACC semifinals on Saturday afternoon.
With the win, the top-seeded Irish (29-3) advanced to face No. 13/11 Duke (27-4) at 1 p.m. on Sunday on ESPN2 as the Irish aim to join the 2001-04 Blue Devils as the only teams to ever win four consecutive ACC outright regular season and tournament championship doubles.
Along with Mabrey's efforts, Jackie Young came off the bench and scored 16 points for the Irish, including a clutch 3-pointer in the fourth quarter that helped seal the win. Brianna Turner also netted 16 points while Lindsay Allen, despite only playing 27 minutes due to foul trouble, had 10 assists. Playing an even second quarter without Allen (Louisville won it just 16-15) helped the Irish survive Saturday to advance.
"I really don't like when Lindsay does that, but I really don't have do it very often," Mabrey said of Allen's foul trouble forcing her to play a quarter of point guard. "I really just wanted to keep it even and make sure that we didn't lose our lead or anything, and I thought it was pretty successful."
The contest was tied, 33-33, at halftime and Notre Dame led by a single basket, 58-56, after three quarters but gradually built the lead up for good during the fourth quarter, outscoring Louisville, 26-17. The exciting game had seven ties and 13 lead changes before the Irish ultimately prevailed. Good foul shooting helped Notre Dame secure the win, hitting 20-of-24 on the game, including 9-of-10 in the fourth quarter alone. Louisville was just 6-of-8 at the charity stripe on Saturday.
Notre Dame's 18-5 defensive edge in turnovers proved to be critical in the contest - particularly in a second quarter where Irish point guard Lindsay Allen played just the final couple of seconds so she could attempt the half-court heave at the buzzer. Notre Dame's halftime advantage in turnovers was 10-2 with both of those coming on offensive foul calls an not as a result of ball-handling errors.
It is the second time this year Notre Dame has committed five turnovers or fewer, joining a three-turnover game on Feb. 6, also against Louisville. Entering the season, Notre Dame had played just two games in its basketball history with five turnovers or fewer, committing three at Maryland on Nov. 16, 2007, and five at Duke on Feb. 1, 2016.
The Irish converted their 18-5 advantage in turnovers into a 19-3 edge in points off turnovers.
"I don't think we can play better than that," Karen and Kevin Keyes Family Head Women's Basketball Coach Muffet McGraw said. "I thought we played a really smart game, got the ball to the right people, took good care of it, and forced them into 18, which was huge. We got a couple of breakaway lay-ups in the second half that really, really were key."
More Honors For Allen and Turner
Lindsay Allen and Brianna Turner were among 15 players named to the national ballot for the 2017 Wooden Award on Saturday afternoon. The Irish join Maryland, UConn and Washington with two players on the ballot. The Irish also comprise two-thirds of the ACC's honorees as, out of the league with seven ranked teams, only Allen, Turner and Syracuse's Alexis Peterson made the cut.
Lindsay Allen made her 144th career start on Saturday, tying Skylar Diggins' school record for the most games started. Allen's 144 consecutive games started has long since established a school record.
Allen had her eighth double-digit assist game of the season and her second in a row. Earlier this year, Allen became the first Notre Dame player since Mary Gavin in 1988 to have three consecutive 10-plus assist games, accomplishing the feat against North Carolina (11), Duke (12) and Virginia (10) from Jan. 22-29.
With 239 assists this season, Allen stands nine shy of surpassing Niele Ivey's school record of 247 set during the 2001 national championship season. Her efforts on Saturday moved her past Virginia's Dawn Staley (235 in 1990-01) and into third place on the ACC's single-season chart. That record is held by Kristi Toliver who had 275 for Maryland in 2007-08.
One of the best shot-blocking teams in the ACC, Notre Dame did not swat away a single Louisville attempt on Saturday. It marked the first time Notre Dame has gone an entire game without blocking a shot since a Feb. 23, 2014, game against Duke.
The game marked the fifth time this year the ACC's leading shot blocker and defensive player of the year, Brianna Turner, was held without a single block. It is just the second time this season where Turner has been block-free in a contest where she played at least 30 minutes.
Notre Dame faces No. 13/11 Duke, the tournament's third seed, for the ACC title at 1 p.m. on Sunday. ESPN2 will broadcast the game nationally with Beth Mowins and Debbie Antonelli on the call. The Blue Devils advanced to the final with a pair of ranked wins, beating No. 21/20 Syracuse, 68-46, in the quarterfinals and No. 16 Miami, 57-52, in the semifinals.
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.