This week the #1 Irish added wins over Wake Forest and Virginia Tech to move to 17-1 overall, and 5-0 in the ACC. They seem to have really hit their stride lately. While the ACC remains a challenging conference with a lot of quality opponents, the Irish look to be in good shape moving forward. They already faced the conference’s toughest opponent, Louisville, and came out with comfortable win. If they continue to improve this season, they are going to be tough for any ACC opponent to beat. Let’s take a look at some of the statistics and trends we’re seeing so far this season.
- The Irish have really started to improve their defense as the season has gone on. It remains something Muffet McGraw regularly calls out as an issue, but they seem to be trending the right direction. After giving up an average of 65.6 points per game in their first 13 games, they have only given up 53.2 points per game in their five ACC matchups.
- Notre Dame has dominated their ACC schedule so far, winning the five games by an average of 30 points.
- With the return of Brianna Turner to the lineup this year, ND has improved from last season’s 3.2 blocks per game to this season’s 5.5 blocks per game.
- The Irish are attempting fewer three-pointers this year, but spending more time in the paint is paying off with trips to the free throw line. The Irish are in the top 3 in the country in free throws attempted, and lead the nation in number of made free throws.
- All five Irish starters are averaging in double figures this season, with Arike Ogunbowale leading at 21.3 points per game.
- Jessica Shepard is just shy of averaging a double-double, with 15.2 points and 9.7 rebounds per game.
- Playing against Lehigh on December 30th, the school where she began her head coaching career, McGraw picked up her 900th career win.
- Currently sitting at 2,161 points, Ogunbowale is on track to break the all-time scoring record currently held by Skylar Diggins (2,357).
Other News and Observations
A few things have stood out so far this season when watching the Irish. First, as I mentioned at the beginning of the season, is what a great pair Shepard and Turner make. Having both of them on the court together really benefits the team on both ends of the floor. They work together well and their styles complement one another. Shepard has worked hard on her fitness this year, losing nearly 40 pounds, and it shows in her increased agility. She remains an excellent passer, and all of her teammates have benefited from that. Turner has been great for the Irish defensively, as noted in the blocking stats above.
Having five legitimate scoring threats on the floor at once is so much fun to watch. Defenses can’t ignore any of the Irish starters, and somebody is almost always clicking. When somebody has an off day, as Mabrey has at times struggled to find her comfort zone after returning from her early season injury, and Ogunbowale has had some slow starts to games recently, they’ve had time to figure it out because of the skills of the other players on the floor.
🖐 starters, 🖐 1️⃣0️⃣0️⃣0️⃣ point scorers.
— Notre Dame WBB (@ndwbb) January 9, 2019
Updates from the Bench
That being said, it is also nice to also see some more players coming off the bench. It is a big change from last year’s injury-depleted team to be able to see significant minutes from the bench players this year. Being able to get that rest for the starters and the experience for the younger players will be very valuable both for this season and looking ahead. With four of the five starters set to graduate and move on after this season, there will be some big shoes to fill next year.
Jordan Nixon started a few games earlier this year while Mabrey was out. She then missed a few games due to a head injury, but is back in the lineup now and spending time at the point guard position. This experience will be vital when she takes on this role next year, and I imagine she will get more comfortable as the season goes on. Danielle Patterson has been playing more minutes this year, and looking much improved over last season. While she isn’t a consistent scoring threat, she did have a career-high 14 points against DePaul. Freshman Abby Prohaska has been averaging 14.7 minutes per game, and reminds me in some ways of Hannah Huffman. She brings in a burst of energy when she comes off the bench, always plays hard, and will always dive for the loose ball. Mikayla Vaughn has been working her way back onto the floor after last year’s ACL injury. She has been playing about 10 minutes a game and is rebounding well for the Irish.
Freshman Katlyn Gilbert was playing 16 minutes a game for the Irish before injuring her shoulder in the game against Iowa. She will be out for the remainder of the season. We have also seen very limited minutes from freshman Danielle Cosgrove and walk-ons Maureen Butler and Nicole Benz.
Burger Basket Leaderboard
When the team scores 88 points or more at home, the fans in attendance get coupons for free burgers. I’ll track which player is responsible for feeding the fans most often during the season.
This is a free-for-all so far this year! There have been six burger baskets scored, and by five different players. Hitting two in a row against Lehigh and Pittsburgh makes Mikayla Vaughn the leader for now.
Mikayla Vaughn – 2
Marina Mabrey – 1
Danielle Patterson – 1
Brianna Turner – 1
Jackie Young – 1
Sunday 1/20 – 1pm – #1 ND vs. Boston College
Thursday 1/24 – 7pm – #1 ND at #20 Tennessee – ESPN
The Irish will kick off the week with their first of two games against Boston College this season. They will host this matchup and will travel to BC next month. BC is currently 13-5 and 2-3 in the ACC. They are coming off a loss to Florida State.
The Irish will then visit historic powerhouse Tennessee on Thursday. The Lady Vols are currently 12-5 and ranked #20, but are in a skid. They are 1-4 in the SEC and just lost four games in a row for the first time since 1970. They’ll be looking to straighten out their season when they host Notre Dame.