ATHENS, Ohio — Despite a career-high 34 points from Dara Mabrey, severely shorthanded Notre Dame lost a season-opening women’s basketball game for the first time in over a quarter of a century Friday afternoon, falling 86-85 at Ohio to spoil Niele Ivey’s head coaching debut for the Irish.
No. 22-ranked Notre Dame trailed by as many as 14 points early in the third quarter before roaring back to take its biggest lead at 77-70 with six minutes to go in the fourth.
The Bobcats (2-0), though, answered that deficit with an 8-0 run in a back-and-forth battle that included three lead changes and two ties over the final 4:39.
“A lot of highs and lows, but I feel super encouraged by this group,” Ivey said, “and that’s what I told them, not to hang their heads. My focus is for them to learn how to compete and get better, and I felt like we did that in the second half.”
Mabrey, a junior transfer from Virginia Tech, poured in 23 points in the second half, that figure alone just three points off her full-game high over two seasons with the Hokies.
“When you lose a game like this, my performance hasn’t even crossed my mind,” Mabrey said. “I was just out there doing everything I could for us to win the basketball game.”
With ND out of timeouts, the contest ended with Cece Hooks missing a pair of free throws at 3.0 seconds to go for Ohio, Abby Prohaska securing the rebound for the Irish and passing off to Mabrey, and a dribbling Mabrey unable to get even close to mid-court before time expired.
“Yeah, a little,” Mabrey said of whether she was surprised by the final horn. “In the heat of the moment, you don’t really know that that much time has been taken off between a rebound, a quick pass and then a dribble. It was only three seconds and I had defenders surrounding me, so the time went by pretty quick.”
Mabrey closed at 7-of-14 on 3-pointers, just one off the program record for single-game makes.
“I think she did phenomenal,” Ivey said of Mabrey’s performance. “She’s just relentless, She’s been the heart and soul of this team, even being a newcomer.”
Hooks notched team highs of 32 points and eight rebounds for the Bobcats, and put her team up for good at 85-83 on a driving basket at 52 seconds to go.
Fellow returning All-Mid American Conference first-teamer Erica Johnson finished with 24 points.
“I thought Ohio played amazing,” Ivey said. “Hooks and Johnson, those two guards in double figures, with their experience, they really took over the game. I thought they played exceptionally well.”
Sophomore Anaya Peoples netted 16 points and grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds for Notre Dame, while Destinee Walker scored 16 points to go with six boards, four assists and two steals.
Freshman Maddy Westbeld added 11 points in her collegiate debut, but was limited to 16 minutes by foul trouble before committing her fifth at 5:40 remaining and ND up 77-73.
Peoples then fouled out as well, at 1:29 to go with the game deadlocked at 81.
The Irish were already without three returning starters in forward Sam Brunelle, guard Katlyn Gilbert and center Mikki Vaughn — they averaged a combined 38.1 points last season — and without a pair of freshman posts in Natalija Marshall and Amirah Abdur-Rahim.
All five players missed the game for undisclosed reasons and are expected to be out again Sunday when Notre Dame plays its home opener at 4 p.m. against Miami of Ohio.
“I had to have literally five guards out there,” Ivey said of her club’s lineup down the stretch and much of the way, “so (we were) playing a lot of people out of position.”
The Irish saw their streak of season-opening wins stopped at 25. Their last loss in an opener was 65-60 in overtime at Seton Hall in November 1994.
NOTRE DAME (0-1): Westbeld 4-7 2-2 11, Mabrey 11-19 5-6 34, Peoples 6-12 4-6 16, Prohaska 1-7 2-2 4, Walker 4-9 8-8 16, Campbell 2-3 0-0 4, Hayes 0-1 0-0 0, Team 0-0 0-0 0, Totals 28-58 21-24 85
OHIO (2-0): Beck 1-4 0-0 2, Burris 4-6 2-2 11, Johnson 8-17 4-4 24, Hooks 10-23 10-14 32, Kroll 0-4 0-0 0, Garnett 0-0 0-0 0, Bambule 1-1 0-0 3, Guice 2-2 2-3 6, Hale 1-3 0-0 2, Mace 2-3 1-2 6, Team 0-0 0-0 0, Totals 29-63 19-25 86
Notre Dame 17 13 35 20 — 85
Ohio 23 18 21 24 — 86
3-Point Goals_Notre Dame 8-20 (Westbeld 1-2, Mabrey 7-14, Prohaska 0-1, Walker 0-2, Campbell 0-1), Ohio 9-21 (Beck 0-1, Burris 1-1, Johnson 4-7, Hooks 2-5, Kroll 0-4, Bambule 1-1, Hale 0-1, Mace 1-1). Assists_Notre Dame 14 (Prohaska 4), Ohio 10 (Johnson 5). Fouled Out_Notre Dame Westbeld, Peoples, Ohio Beck. Rebounds_Notre Dame 37 (Prohaska 3-7), Ohio 32 (Hooks 3-8). Total Fouls_Notre Dame 25, Ohio 23. Technical Fouls_None. A_0.