Madison Cable helps Notre Dame blitz Wolfpack

Ken Klimek
Tribune Correspondent

SOUTH BEND – It was considerably more than a spurt.

It was an explosion.

And when the Notre Dame women’s basketball team goes on a 29-10 run, like it did in the third quarter, there isn’t an easy way for an opponent to stop the momentum.

The third-quarter blitz propelled the Irish to an 82-46 victory over visiting North Carolina State Thursday at Purcell Pavilion. More importantly it sets the stage for a Sunday battle for first place in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Notre Dame, now 22-1 and 10-0 in the league will meet Louisville at the Yum Center. The Cardinals, after defeating North Carolina Thursday night are also 10-0 in ACC play.

“In that third period I thought they looked like the Globetrotters and we looked like the Generals,” said Wolfpack coach Wes Moore, who did not lose his sense of humor in the loss and who was effusive in his praise of the Irish.

For the second consecutive game, it was grad student Madison Cable who sparked the Irish. She had 13 first-quarter points and finished with 25, tying her career high. Cable shot 8-of-12 from the floor and was perfect in seven tries from the free-throw line.

“Madison was unbelievable. She just made everything,” said Irish coach Muffet McGraw. “She moved well without the ball and made some different kinds of shots today.”

Notre Dame again finished with five players scoring in double figures, and the offense ran smoothly in the transition game and better than it has been operating in the half court. But as pleased as McGraw was with her offense, it was the defense that brought a smile to her face.

“I looked the other day and think we are first in the league (in defense),” said McGraw. “That is astounding. Normally we are up there offensively. It’s good to see we are up there on the other side. It means we are working hard and I think that is where team chemistry comes into play – on the defensive end.”

Wolfpack coach Moore agreed that the Irish defense gave his team fits. “I thought we could take them off the dribble some,” he said. “They did a better job of containing one-on-one than I anticipated. They did a great job on rotation, but more than that they play great team defense.”

Notre Dame has held three of its last four opponents under 50 points and the triumph over North Carolina State gives the Irish 28 straight February victories and moved them to a 48-1 record in all games since entering the ACC three years ago.

And everyone contributed. Lindsay Allen had eight assists, one away from her career high and scored 10 points. It was the 100th consecutive start for Allen. Freshman Arike Ogunbowale also had 10, while classmate Marina Mabrey scored 11. Sophomore Brianna Turner contributed 14 points and scored three straight baskets during the 29-10 Irish third-quarter run. Sophomore Kathryn Westbeld tied a career high with four steals and grabbed six rebounds. The Irish bench once again was instrumental, outscoring the Wolfpack 29-16.

But it was Cable’s night. She led the team in rebounds with seven, in addition to her 25 points. She continued to credit her teammates. “I guess my shots were just falling, but my teammates were making good passes and finding me.”

In her first three years at Notre Dame, Cable scored in double figures 18 times. She already has 19 double-figure games this season.

Earlier in the week McGraw talked about fixes she needed to make both offensively and defensively. At least against North Carolina State those fixes were apparent – especially defensively.

“Bri (Turner) is huge for our defense. It really helps when you have that shot blocker back there,” said McGraw, who knows her team has limited teams to 20 points fewer than during the six games Turner missed. “We are getting better at movement on defense,” she added.

Offensively, the transition game and the ball movement in the half court led to many easy shots for the Irish, who shot 52.6 percent, while limiting the Wolfpack to 33.3 percent shooting.

It will take that kind of effort again Sunday, when the Irish and Louisville battle for the undisputed ACC lead with only five league games remaining after their battle.

Notre Dame’s Madison Cable (22) passes the ball as North Carolina State’s Jennifer Mathurin (11) falls onto her during ND's 82-26 romp, Thursday at Purcell Pavilion. (Tribune Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN)