Plenty of senior moments as ND women wrap up ACC title

Ken Klimek
Tribune Correspondent

SOUTH BEND — There was very little that was going to spoil Senior Day Saturday at Purcell Pavilion, where Notre Dame locked up its third straight Atlantic Coast Conference championship with a 70-58 victory over Boston College before a sellout crowd of 9,149.

The second-ranked Irish were blistering early, racing to a 25-12 first-quarter lead that was extended to a 42-24 halftime advantage, then coasted in the second half to boost their record to 28-1 overall and 16-0 in league play. In doing so, they accomplished their first goal of the season, a conference title.

“We got off to a great start," ND head coach Muffet McGraw said, whose team with be the top seed in the upcoming ACC Tourney. "I really think the crowd helped. It got Boston College back on their heels a little bit. They hadn’t played in front of a crowd like that before."

The crowd, ND's third sell-out of the season, did have plenty to roar about. First the Irish honored the seniors — Madison Cable (actually a graduate student), Michaela Mabrey and Hannah Huffman. The Irish then went on to win actually their fifth straight conference title — three in the ACC and two more in their final two years in the Big East Conference.

Cable was the darling of the day, scoring a game-high 20 points and registering five steals. Always quick to deflect praise to her teammates and coaches, Cable said it was her teammates who found her open and her coaches who made her successful.

McGraw pointed out how valuable Cable has been.

“Madison is the heart and soul of our team,” McGraw said. "She is the most competitive, the hardest worker. She makes big shot after big shot. Every time we needed a basket, she was the one.”

Cable had plenty of help Saturday against the Eagles. Sophomore Brianna Turner proved to be difficult to defend inside, scoring 15 points and grabbing eight rebounds. And freshman Arike Ogunbowale again brought her “instant offense” off the bench by scoring eight points in the first half and finishing with 15.

She also had eight rebounds, one away from her career high.

Boston College coach Erik Johnson, his team 14-15 (2-14 in the ACC) and a loser in 10 of its last 11 games, remained upbeat.

“That start hurt us," he said. "They shot 73 percent in the first half. But once we locked down, we showed we can play with anybody. We are coming.”

Kelly Hughes led BC with 16 points. Mariella Fousoula, a 6-foot-4, freshman, added 10 points and five rebounds before fouling out early in the fourth quarter.

With its regular season completed, Notre Dame will not play until 2 p.m, Friday, with a double bye into the quaterfinals. Their opponent will be the winner of Thursday's matchup between the 8 and 9 seeds. The tourney, which tips off Wednesday, will be held at Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, N.C.

“It’s phenomenal to go through the ACC undefeated,” said McGraw. “It is a credit to our seniors and the whole team. What we went through – losing Ali (freshman Patberg who injured a knee in preseason and missed all year). I don’t know what we would have done if Madison had not come back and what we would have done if Bri’s shoulder had not made it through.”

Turner, who missed some time early in the season with an injured shoulder, routinely gets double-teamed, but the Irish have so many shooters, Turner’s blockade opens up other Irish players.

“The all can score and shoot well,” Johnson said. “They are so hard to defend because of that.”

Turner was especially sharp in the first half, when the game was decided. She had nine points, scoring on both lobs and quick seals and drop-steps for lay-ins.

“I wish the second half would have been as good,” McGraw said.

Boston College actually outscored ND, 34-28, in the final two quarters.That will give McGraw plenty to keep her team focused in the coming days as they prepare for both the ACC and NCAA tournaments.

But she was extremely proud of what Cable, Mabrey and Huffman have contributed to the program.

“The run we have had no matter who graduates, we can keep our tradition going," McGraw said. "These seniors showed that."

Irish Sophomore forward Kathryn Westbeld missed a second straight game with an ankle injury.

BOSTON COLLEGE (14-15): Alexa Coulombe 2-3 0-0 4, Mariella Fasoula 5-12 0-0 10, Nicole Boudreau 1-4 0-0 2, Martina Mosetti 4-6 2-2 10, Kelly Hughes 5-13 3-4 16, Stephanie Jones 1-1 0-0 2, Ella Awobajo 0-2 0-0 0, Kailey Edwards 1-6 2-2 4, Emilee Daley 0-1 1-2 1, Katie Quandt 3-6 3-4 9. Totals 22-54 11-14 58.

NOTRE DAME (28-1): Brianna Turner 5-10 5-9 15, Lindsay Allen 3-6 0-2 6, Madison Cable 8-12 2-2 20, Michaela Mabrey 2-5 0-0 6, Hannah Huffman 1-3 0-0 2, Arike Ogunbowale 6-10 3-4 15, Marina Mabrey 0-0 0-0 0, Mychael Johnson 0-3 2-2 2, Kristina Nelson 2-3 0-0 4, Diamond Thompson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 27-52 12-19 70.

Boston College 12 12 11 23—58

Notre Dame 25 17 13 15—70

3-Point Goals--Boston College 3-11 (Hughes 3-7, Daley 0-1, Boudreau 0-3), Notre Dame 4-15 (Cable 2-4, Mi. Mabrey 2-5, Allen 0-1, Ogunbowale 0-2, Johnson 0-3). Fouled Out--Fasoula. Rebounds--Boston College 30 (Boudreau, Fasoula 5), Notre Dame 30 (Ogunbowale, Turner 8). Assists--Boston College 14 (Boudreau 5), Notre Dame 18 (Allen 5). Total Fouls--Boston College 19, Notre Dame 11. A--9,149.

Notre Dame’s Madison Cable (22) competes for a loose ball with Boston College's Kelly Hughes (23) and Nicole Boudreau (11) during ND's 70-58 victory Saturday at Purcell Pavilion (Tribune Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN)