Basketball numbers add up for Notre Dame women

Ken Klimek
Tribune Correspondent

Numbers can tell an intriguing story.

And numbers loom large in the success the Notre Dame women's basketball team has enjoyed this season.

At 24-1 (12-0 ACC), the Notre Dame women's basketball team is preparing for a two-game road swing, the final road tests of the regular season.

When the Irish play at Wake Forest Thursday, a victory would guarantee a top-four seed in the upcoming Atlantic Coast Conference tournament and with it a double-bye in the tournament.

“The double bye is essential,” said coach Muffet McGraw. “I don't think that tournament can be won without a double bye. But we are shooting for more.''

The Irish may be without one of their rapidly developing weapons when they travel to Winston Salem. Sophomore guard Mychal Johnson suffered an apparent concussion after a fall to the floor Sunday in a victory over Miami.

Johnson had been seeing extended minutes recently, primarily for defensive purposes.

Ranked No. 2 by the Associated Press and No. 3 in the coaches' poll, the Irish have won 17 straight and have the No. 1 RPI in the nation. They have won 55 of their last 57 road contests.

Notre Dame is ranked in the Top 10 in five NCAA statistical categories — more numbers that help explain its sparkling record.

ND ranks No. 3 in field goal percentage at .491, fourth in 3-point shooting percentage at .411, sixth in scoring margin at +19.5, ninth in assists at 18 per game and 10th in scoring offense at 80.2 points.

Wake Forest is a team that tries to dictate tempo. The Deacons score only 61.3 a game.

Wake Forest has a player who will need special attention. She is sophomore guard Amber Campbell, the ACC player of the week after a 27-point outburst against Duke.

“She (Johnson) is one we look to put on those guards,” said McGraw. “She (Campbell) can shoot and drive. She will be tough to defend.”

McGraw is not concerned that the match against Wake Forest could be a “trap” game. The Irish just defeated a ranked Miami team and certainly have highly-ranked Florida State in the back of their minds. Florida State has only one league loss. The Irish travel there Monday for its final road game of the regular season.

“I focus on the game at hand,” said McGraw. “I leave that (keeping her players from looking ahead) to our leadership in the locker room. The players know we can't look past anyone.”

Wake Forest is 15-11 (6-7), but has won four straight games, including a victory over Duke in its last outing.

“They are a young team, but definitely a team on the rise,'' McGraw said. "They have to be feeling good right now,” McGraw said.

The Irish balance has proven to be a major obstacle for opponents.

Four players are scoring in double figures, with Brianna Turner tops at 13.9 per game.

Turner is shooting better than 50 percent from the field, and also has been a major factor in Notre Dame's defensive improvement in the second portion of the season.

Grad student Madison Cable adds 13.7 points a game, with sophomores Arike Ogunbowale and Marina Mabrey following at 11.8 and 11.4 respectively.

WHO: No. 2/3 Notre Dame 24-1 (12-0) vs. Wake Forest 15-11 (6-7).

WHEN: Thursday at 7 p.m.

WHERE: Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Winston-Salem, N.C.

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

GAME NOTES: Wake Forest is coached by Jen Hoover, a 1991 Wake Forest graduate. She is in her fourth season ... Wake Forest is 0-3 against Notre Dame ... The Deacons are led by 5-9 sophomore Amber Campbell, who is averaging 13.7 points, but scored 27 in a victory over Duke in their last game. She was named the ACC player of the week ... Ariel Stevenson, a 5-10 freshman scores at a 12.6 clip, and Milan Quinn, a 6-1 junior, is at 10.0.