After a well-deserved bye on Thursday, the Irish returned to action when they hosted Georgia Tech on Sunday. Notre Dame came away with a comfortable win over the Yellow Jackets. The Irish will play two games on the road this week.
Game 1: Georgia Tech at #5 ND
Sunday’s game against Georgia Tech did not get off to a great start. Maybe having the bye on Thursday threw off the team’s routine or maybe their comfortable win in the game against Georgia Tech earlier in the season had made them complacent, but whatever the reason it took the Irish about two and a half quarters to really get going in this one.
Georgia Tech got off to a quicker start, picking up a 4-0 lead before the Irish came back to tie it at 6 and then take the lead. However, Notre Dame just couldn’t pull away. Uncharacteristic bad passes resulted in some turnovers as things just looked a little sloppy. The Irish were able to get the ball into the paint with ease at first, but it didn’t take the Yellow Jackets long to start challenging them there too. The Irish managed a 21-17 lead by the end of the first quarter. In the second quarter, the team continued to look just a little unsettled on offense. Georgia Tech kept the game close while Notre Dame continued to commit unforced turnovers. GT retook the lead for the first time since the early minutes with a score of 34-33, which they stretched to 39-35 before the Irish tied it up at 39 going into halftime. ND’s players made only 1 of 6 free throws in the first half, and also committed 15 turnovers.
Things were looking up at the beginning of the second half. The Irish opened the third quarter with a 6-0 run, but still couldn’t pull away at first. Georgia Tech brought it back within two points, making the Irish work for everything as the game stayed close. Late in the quarter and seemingly out of the blue, the Irish hit their stride and were able to start distancing themselves from the Yellow Jackets. All of a sudden, they had taken a 64-52 lead. They ended the quarter up 64-54. Arike Ogunbowale was a major force for the Irish during this run, and continued her dominance into the fourth quarter. 19 of her team-high 27 points came in the second half. Jackie Young also had an impressive game, collecting 12 points in the second half for a total of 22 in the game, along with 7 rebounds, 7 assists, and 5 steals. The team also stepped up their defense as the game went on. During one stretch of the fourth quarter, the Irish went on a 13-0 run during which the Yellow Jackets did not even attempt a field goal, instead racking up turnovers on every possession. The Irish won this game with a final score of 85-69.
Fortunately, Kathryn Westbeld’s eye area seems to be recovering well after an elbow to the face last week left her with a nasty black eye and swelling for the Duke game. While still somewhat purple, it’s no longer as striking, and no longer requires tape to hold back the swelling and improve her vision during the game. Clearly her vision must be fine, since she shot a perfect 5 for 5 in this game.
Burger Basket Leaderboard (Season 2)
(At Notre Dame home games where the Irish score 88 points or more, the fans in attendance receive coupons for a free burger. I’m tracking which player is responsible for feeding the fans the most often over the course of the season).
There was no change this week. With 18 seconds remaining in the game, walk-on Kaitlin Cole put up a 3-point attempt that would have gotten the Irish to 88, but the shot didn’t fall and the fans went home empty-handed.
Marina Mabrey – 2
Kristina Nelson – 2
Arike Ogunbowale – 1
Danielle Patterson – 1
Lili Thompson – 1
The Irish will play two games on the road this week, before returning home for the last two games of the regular season next week. They will start this week with a potentially difficult test at Virginia. The Cavaliers are sitting at 16-9, tied for third in the ACC with a 9-3 record. All three of their conference losses have come against ranked opponents, including losses at Duke and Florida State and at home against Louisville.
On Sunday the Irish will travel to Chestnut Hill for their annual visit to Boston College. The Eagles have continued to struggle, currently 7-18 overall and 2-10 in the ACC. They are ahead of only 1-12 Clemson in the conference standings. Interestingly, Clemson’s one conference win was over BC. ND’s first game against the Eagles this year took place just over a month ago, and was ND’s first outing after the lopsided loss at Louisville. The Irish took the chance to bounce back, defeating BC 89-60 on that occasion.
Looking ahead to the ACC Tournament, Notre Dame is currently tied for first in the ACC with Louisville. Both teams hold 11-1 conference records; however, as we all remember, Louisville certainly holds the head-to-head tiebreaker. Even if the Irish win their last four, they will need another team to hand the Cardinals a second conference loss if they want to take over the top spot. The best chance for this will be Virginia’s visit to Louisville on February 22nd. The upset doesn’t seem likely, but we can hope! The other teams with a shot at the Cardinals before the season ends are North Carolina, BC, and Pitt.