Tale of two halves in Notre Dame women's basketball victory

Ken Klimek
Tribune Correspondent

SOUTH BEND — DePaul coach Doug Bruno loves what he calls DePaul ball — “chase ball.”

The Notre Dame women's basketball team loved it even more, at least for a half. The Irish rode a hot-shooting shredding of chase ball to a 65-39 halftime lead en route to a 95-90 victory over the No. 18-ranked Blue Demons Wednesday night at the Purcell Pavilion.

The Irish riddled the DePaul press in the first half, shooting 76.5 percent (26 of 34) on a range of 3-point shots, slashes to open spots and passes for easy layups to build that 26-point lead at the intermission.

Yet the Irish needed their versatility and resiliency to hold off DePaul, now 6-3, with losses only to the No. 1, 3 and 4 teams in the nation (Connecticut, Notre Dame and Baylor).

“We stopped the press and played a traditional man-to-man defense in the second half,” said Bruno. That decision and a colder Irish offense in the last two quarters allowed the Demons back in the game.

ND head coach Muffet McGraw saw another reason for the complete turnaround in the two halves.

“I was really disappointed with our defense in the second half,” she said. “It was 51-30 in the second half (DePaul's favor). That is just unacceptable. It's not the way we want to play.That's four ranked teams in a row. We are tired. We have to hold it together for one more game (Saturday at TCU) before we break for finals.”

The second half did show the Irish versatility. Sophomore Mychal Johnson played much of the second half and all of the fourth quarter, replacing freshman Arike Ogunbowale.

“We needed Arike in there to drive the ball for us,” said McGraw. "But we liked what Mychal was doing on defense.”

“My coaches and teammates trust me to come in and play defense,'' Johnson said.

And her defense helped rescue the Irish from DePaul's amazing comeback in the second half.

Johnson gave the Irish a big lift offensively as well, scoring 12 points in 28 minutes. She hit a 3-point shot that pushed the Irish back into a 15-point lead with 1:47 to play in the third quarter, then added two free throws less than a minute later to keep the lead at 15, 78-63.

“I thought that was the shot of the game,” McGraw said of Johnson's 3-pointer. "They were closing the gap and it gave us some breathing room. And she was about the only one who was making free throws for us.” Notre Dame was only 12 of 22 from the free throw line (54.5 percent).

Ogunbowale, despite not playing in the fourth quarter, tied her career with 16 points – most on slashing drives to the basket. Freshman Marina Mabrey added 16 for Notre Dame, while Lindsay Allen scored 12.

DePaul placed four players in double figure scoring. Chanise Jenkins scored 21, Jessica January added 17, while Megan Podkowa and Jacqui Grant added 14 each.

Once again it was the overall play by graduate student Madison Cable that led the Irish. Cable scored 21 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, her second double-double of the season and third of her career. She took a hard fall to the floor in the third quarter, but returned later in the period to finish the game.

“We got complacent after halftime,'' McGraw said. "We can't do that. We know better. They made us play half-court. We did not work for the shots we could have gotten.”

Scoring only 30 points in the second half, Notre Dame nonetheless finished the game shooting 62.1 percent from the floor (36 of 58), the highest shooting percentage of the season.

The Notre Dame resiliency showed late in the game. DePaul got within six points with less than two minutes to play.

“We stayed poised at the end,” McGraw said.

“Our players did a great job of staying strong within themselves. I am proud of the way they hung in there,” Bruno said of his DePaul squad.

Asked if she was comfortable with Notre Dame shooting so many 3-pointers, McGraw replied “Yes, when they are going in.”

The Irish made 11 of 20 3-pointers (55 percent).

"We have players – Cable and Michaela Mabrey. They are supposed to take those shots,” she added.

Cable hit five of eight, Marina Mabrey three of four and Michaela Mabrey 2 of 5. Without those baskets, the Demons may have been celebrating when the final horn sounded.

The Irish have a day to prepare before leaving for Saturday's noon game at TCU. After that game, the Irish will have nine days for finals and rest before their next contest Dec. 21 at St. Joseph's (Pa.)

No. 3 NOTRE DAME 95, No. 18 DEPAUL 90

DEPAUL (6-3)

Grant 7-11 0-0 14, Jenkins 8-13 1-1 21, January 4-11 9-9 17, Schulte 0-8 2-2 2, Podkowa 4-6 4-4 14, Millender 3-8 0-0 9, Prochaska 0-0 0-0 0, Coleman 1-3 0-0 3, Allen 0-0 0-0 0, Grays 3-7 0-0 8, Harvey-Carr 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 31-69 16-16 90.

NOTRE DAME (8-1)

Westbeld 1-3 0-0 2, Ma. Mabrey 5-7 3-3 16, Allen 4-6 4-8 12, Cable 8-13 0-4 21, Mi. Mabrey 2-5 0-0 6, Ogunbowale 7-12 2-3 16, Reimer 2-4 0-0 4, Johnson 4-4 3-4 12, Huffman 3-4 0-0 6. Totals 36-58 12-22 95.

Halftime--Notre Dame 65-39. 3-Point Goals--DePaul 12-27 (Jenkins 4-6, Millender 3-6, Podkowa 2-3, Grays 2-4, Coleman 1-2, Schulte 0-1, Grant 0-1, January 0-4), Notre Dame 11-20 (Cable 5-8, Ma. Mabrey 3-4, Mi. Mabrey 2-5, Johnson 1-1, Ogunbowale 0-1, Allen 0-1). Fouled Out--None. Rebounds--DePaul 32 (Grant, Podkowa 6), Notre Dame 32 (Cable 10). Assists--DePaul 19 (January 6), Notre Dame 22 (Allen 8). Total Fouls--DePaul 18, Notre Dame 20. A--8,207.

Notre Dame’s Madison Cable (22) shoots a three-pointer during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2015, in South Bend, Ind. (AP Photo/Robert Franklin)