Michaela Mabrey, Lindsay Allen keep ND settled on road

Ken Klimek
Tribune Correspondent

SOUTH BEND – The uneasiness of playing an Atlantic Coast Conference women’s basketball game on the road has been easier to swallow for Notre Dame Coach Muffet McGraw.

That’s because she knows she can count on two of the “old veterans” on her team, senior Michaela Mabrey and junior Lindsay Allen. Those two have helped Notre Dame win 51 of its last 53 regular-season road games using both their basketball moxie and experience dealing with their teammates.

Those veterans and their teammates will be looking for another road victory Thursday when the No. 3 and 15-1 Irish tangle with Boston College, 12-3. The Irish and Louisville are the only teams unbeaten in ACC games with 4-0 records, while the Eagles are 0-2 in ACC play.

Another thing that settles Irish nerves is the knowledge they play the toughest schedule in the country. This week’s NCAA statistics reveal that the Irish have the No. 1 RPI rating in women’s college basketball.

But Mabrey and Allen are the glue that steadies the Irish on the road. “Michaela is in charge. She is the vocal leader of our team and in charge of the freshmen. She gets them where they need to be,” said McGraw. And Mabrey’s leadership is evident in the production coming from her sister Marina (12.9 points a game) and Arike Ogunbowale (11.6 points.)

“I can’t believe it has been nearly four years,” said Michaela. “I am sad it is coming to an end. I have learned so much and now I am happy to help the other players and try to prepare them for these road games.”

Averaging only 7.3 points a game this season, Michaela continues to be a threat because of her ability to shoot the 3.

“She’s great for us. She stretches the defense,” said McGraw. “When we want to run a play for Bri (Brianna Turner), we want Michaela in her corner. It’s hard for a team to leave her alone and guard Bri. People will not give her any open shots. Just her being on the floor helps our offense.”

“I am a pass first, shoot second player,” said Michaela. “Coach trusts me with passes to Bri so the defense has to choose who they will try to guard. All the road games are hard. This conference is extra strong.”

Another player McGraw trusts is Allen, who will be starting her 93rd consecutive game at point guard for Notre Dame. She may well own the Irish record soon. Only Jacqueline Batteast, 97 straight starts (2002 to 2005) and Katryna Gaither, 95 consecutive starts, (1994-97) rank ahead of Allen.

The Irish coach is effusive in her praise of Allen.

“She came in as a freshman and immediately started at point guard. From day one it was amazing how smart she was,” McGraw said. "If you tell her one thing, not for four years will you have to tell her that again. She is our constant – the steadiest player on the team. You know what you will get out of her every game.” Allen leads the Irish in assists with 5.4 per game and is scoring at a 9.1 clip.

Though those two veterans are instrumental to the success of the Irish there are plenty of other contributors. Grad student Madison Cable continues to lead the team in scoring at 14.9 per game, with Turner at 13.7. Sophomore Kathryn Westbeld scores at 9.4 and grabs nearly six rebounds.

With its 12-3 record and playing at home, Boston College can be rugged to beat. The Eagles are coach by Erik Johnson, in his fourth season in Boston. He previously coached at Denver from 2008-2012.

“Boston College has a really good player, about 6-foor-4. She is a big girl inside and is doing a lot of damage to everyone,” said McGraw.

That player is Mariella Fasoula, who averaged 16 points and seven rebounds in two games last week, earning for the the ACC rookie of the week award – the second time she has won it this season. Her season numbers are 11.9 points and 5.2 rebounds.

“Boston College has a tendency to upset teams,” said McGraw.

Being counted on to help the Irish avoid the upset will be Michaela and Allen on the outside and Turner on the inside. In the 10 games that Turner has played Notre Dame is limiting opponents to only 55.8 points a game.

After the contest with Boston College, Notre Dame returns home for a Monday game against Tennessee.

Notre Dame’s Lindsay Allen (15) drives between North Carolina’s Xylina McDaniel (34) and Hillary Summers (30) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Sunday, Jan. 10, 2016, in South Bend, Ind. (AP Photo/Robert Franklin)

WHO: No. 3 Notre Dame 15-1 (4-0) vs. Boston College 12-3 (0-2).

WHEN: Thursday at 7 pm (EST).

WHERE: Conte Forum, Chestnut Hill, Mass. (8,606)

TICKETS: Available.

TV: bceagels.com (PPV – live)

RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) South Bend, WatchND (audio only)

WOMEN'S BASKETBALL

Game notes: The game will be the 22nd meeting between BC and Notre Dame. The Irish are 16-5 in the series and have won the last six straight. . . Notre Dame continues to lead the nation in 3-point field goal percentage. Through Tuesday ND was shooting the 3 at a .445 percentage. . . In overall field goal percentage, the Irish are fourth in the nation at .495. . . Notre Dame’s bench is outscoring the opponents’ bench 32.2 to 13.6 per game. . . Thursday’s meeting is the first of a home-and-home arrangement this year. Boston College will visit Notre Dame at Purcell Pavilion later in the season.