Freshmen Ogunbowale, Mabrey make impact for Notre Dame women

Ken Klimek Tribune Correspondent
ND Insider

SOUTH BEND – Flashback to Monday night.

The Notre Dame women’s basketball team was playing then 10th-ranked Florida State in Tallahasee. The Irish half-court offense was sputtering – badly.

No problem.

Coach Muffet McGraw called freshmen Arike Ogunbowale and Marina Mabrey off the bench. The two first-year players subsequently hit 6-of-7 seven 3-point shots, scored a combined 20 of Notre Dame’s 43 points at halftime and helped the Irish open leads as wide as 19 points -- a lead that led to another ND victory.

The two freshmen have had a major impact on Notre Dame owning a 26-1 (14-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) record. McGraw has called Ogunbowale “instant offense” at times during the season, and has used Mabrey as an additional offensive sparkplug as well.

They are likely to come off the bench again Thursday when Notre Dame hosts Clemson , 4-23 (0-14) at Purcell Pavilion. And when they enter the game, look for the points to pile up.

An Irish victory Thursday ensures at least a share of the Atlantic Coast Conference championship. It would give the Irish the No. 1 seed in the ACC tourney, based on their victory over second-place Louisville.

The Irish will be playing without sophomore Kathryn Westbeld, who injured an ankle Monday night in that Florida State game.

“We have our eye on the title. That is important to us,” said McGraw. “We have high goals. We know we can’t let up. Two years ago Clemson really slowed us down. They probably will run their stuff against us again. We have to be ready for that. We have to set the tempo.”

Ogunbowale and Mabrey enjoy the up-tempo game.

“I thought I would have some impact here,” said Mabrey. “But I did not think I would be scoring as much.” Ogunbowale also expected playing time. “Coach told us right at the start she needed our offense.”

The two have delivered all season. Ogunbowale averages 11.9 points, with Mabrey close behind at 11.4.

“I felt good in the shootaround (at Florida State)” said Mabrey. “I knew we needed help. When the first one went in (she was 3-of-4 on 3-point shots), it made things easier.”

Ogunbowale, normally a slasher who loves to take the ball to the basket, used a different approach.

“They knew I liked to drive and so they played off me," she said. "So I was just free to shoot the 3.”

She was 3-for-3 from beyond the arc in the first half. Both freshmen said their teammates did a good job getting the ball to them when they were open.

McGraw has her sights on an outright title in the ACC. If the Irish win Thursday and again Saturday at home on senior day against Boston College, it will be their third consecutive outright ACC regular-season championship.

“When I look at the ACC schedule, with games away at Lousville, Florida State and Duke, I was concerned. I was concerned about February (when those three games were played).

“I didn’t think we would be where we are right now. We are ahead of schedule. We have overachieved to get here. Our schedule looked hard and it proved to be. We played the toughest schedule. We have the No.1 RPI ranking."

Notre Dame hopes to keep some streaks alive Thursday. Clemson averages only 51.9 points a game, but gives up 67. The Irish will be looking for their 20th consecutive victory. They have won 55 of 56 ACC conference games since joining the league three seasons ago.

Sophomore center Brianna Turner leads Notre Dame in scoring with a 14.2 average. She is the team’s leading rebounder at 7.0 per game. Grad student Madison Cable is close behind at 13.5 and 5.9.

Westbeld out

Notre Dame sophomore Kathryn Westbeld, who has started all 27 games for Notre Dame, will not play Thursday night when the Irish meet Clemson at the Purcell Pavilion.

Westbeld turned an ankle late in Monday’s victory at Florida State when she slipped running to help a fallen Lindsay Allen, who had just taken an inadvertent hard fall. Westbeld slipped on a wet spot on the floor and did not return to the game.

The team’s second leading rebounder at 6.0, Westbeld also averages 8.0 points and is used in the middle of the floor when Notre Dame is looking to break a press.

Her status for Saturday is questionable, according to coach Muffet McGraw. That game at home will be the regular-season finale. The Irish may save Westbeld to ensure she is at full strength for next week’s Atlantic Coast Conference tourney.

Westbeld was walking Thursday at practice and was not wearing a boot or any obvious medical device.

Notre Dame’s Arike Ogunbowale drives downcourt during the first half of Notre Dame's win Sunday over Miami (Fla.). AP Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN

WHO: No. 2/3 Notre Dame 25-1 (14-0) vs. Clemson 4-23 (0-14).

WHEN: Thursday at 7 pm (EST)

WHERE: Purcell Pavilion.

TICKETS: Limited number available by calling (574) 631-7356, going online to UND.com/buytickets.

INTERNET: WatchND

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

GAME NOTES: Clemson is coached by Audra Smith, in her third season with the Tigers. She is a 1992 graduate of the University of Virginia. . . Nelly Perry, a 5-foot-10 sophomore, is the team’s leading scorer at 14.2 points a game. Danielle Edwards, a 5-7 freshman, is next at 9.3 per game. . . Notre Dame’s Lindsay Allen, who had a career-high 11 assists against Florida State, leads the ACC in that assist category at 5.6 . . . Allen contributes 9.0 points each game to the Irish attack. . . The teams have met only two previous times. Notre Dame won both games. . . Notre Dame has won 30 consecutive ACC games.