A sparkling start for Notre Dame women's basketball team

Ogunbowale torches Central Michigan with career-high 30 points

Ken Klimek Tribune Correspondent
ND Insider

SOUTH BEND — A surprise starter, an electric offensive outburst and high-energy defense set the tone as Notre Dame opened its 2016-17 season with a 107-47 win over Central Michigan in the first round of the preseason WNIT Friday night at Purcell Pavilion.

The victory sends Notre Dame into Monday night's quarterfinals, where the Irish will host Fordham, a first-round winner over Furman. Central Michigan will host a consolation game Saturday against an opponent to be named.

“It was a great first game for us,” said Irish coach Muffet McGraw. “Defensively, we set the tone early and controlled the pace of the game.”

The story of the game, however, was the Irish offense — especially sophomore Arike Ogunbowale. Given the nickname "Instant Offense" early in her freshman season, she supported that label with a career-high 30 points on 12-of-13 shooting, and was perfect on five 3-point shots. “I guess I rushed it,” Ogunbowale joked of her only miss.

Ogunbowale worked hard on her 3-point shot over the summer as an added dimension to her offensive game.

“Teams sagged off me last year,'' she said. "I thought they would again. Now they might have to stay out on me.”

The Irish put to rest any upset hopes the Chippewas may have had with a 15-0 spurt in the game's first 3:09, opened up a 35-9 advantage after the first quarter, and stretched the lead to 56-20 by halftime. Notre Dame shot a blistering 71 percent in the first half (22-of-31), and held the Chippewas to 24.2 percent on 8-for-33. The Irish finished the game 61.5 percent from the field.

“Our offense was just really clicking tonight,” said McGraw. “And our defense for three quarters was phenomenal.”

Lindsay Allen played a major role in the fast start. Allen finished with 13 points in just 19 minutes and her eight assists moved her into sixth place in the Notre Dame record books. Allen has 567 career assists, 12 shy of fifth-place Karen Robinson (1987-91).

“(Allen) was getting things moving for us. She set the tone. She had a business-like attitude to start the game,” said McGraw.

Junior Mychal Johnson, fresh off a wrist injury that kept her out of last week’s exhibition victory, started at guard for Notre Dame in place of Marina Mabrey. “Marina just wasn’t ready,” said McGraw. “I didn’t like her focus before the game.

“Mychal had great energy to start the game, especially defensively,” said McGraw. Johnson logged 27 minutes, scored seven points, grabbed four rebounds and four steals and did not make a turnover.

Johnson is a player McGraw feels could be the “glue” to this year’s team, taking a spot held by do-everything Madison Cable a year ago. “It felt really good (the playing time),” said Johnson. “I just came in to do what the coaches and my teammates wanted from me. I tried to get my teammates involved and bring energy on the defensive end.”

When Mabrey did enter the game, she started with a flurry as she scored eight points in a span of 53 seconds in the first quarter and finished the game with 17. “Coming off the bench, she responded well,” said McGraw. “I was pleased with the way she handled it.”

There were other career bests by the Irish. Senior Diamond Thompson scored six points in 11 minutes, and Kristina (Coco) Nelson had a personal high nine rebounds to go with eight points in 20 minutes on the floor.

All-American Brianna Turner scored 12 points but only played half the game. Notre Dame was without standout freshman Jackie Young, still nursing a thumb injury.

Coach Sue Guevara’s Central Michigan team was led by Aleah Swary, who scored 15 points. Tinara Moore added 10 for the Chippewas.

As efficient as the Irish were Friday night, McGraw found things still needing to be fine-tuned. “We forgot some things we wanted to do,” she said. “Our zone was pretty good but we gave up some threes. We can work on that. We wanted to trap more.”

Always a perfectionist, McGraw and the Irish will have another chance to work on the bugs when Fordham comes calling at 7 p.m. Monday. With a win, Notre Dame would play in a WNIT semifinal contest Thursday night at home.

• NOTRE DAME 107, CENTRAL MICHIGAN 47

At South Bend

CENTRAL MICHIGAN (47): Tinara Moore 5-10 0-0 10, Jewel Cotton 2-8 3-4 7, Presley Hudson 2-9 0-0 4, Cassie Breen 2-13 2-2 8, Amani Corley 0-3 1-4 1, Jasmine Harris 0-4 0-0 0, Aleah Swary 5-11 0-0 15, Reyna Frost 1-3 0-0 2, Aaliah Hill 0-0 0-2 0, Gabrielle Bird 0-2 0-0 0. TOTALS: 17-63 6-12 47.

NOTRE DAME (107): Brianna Turner 5-8 2-4 12, Kathryn Westbeld 3-4 0-0 6, Mychal Johnson 2-4 2-2 7, Lindsay Allen 6-8 0-0 13, Arike Ogunbowale 12-13 1-1 30, Marina Mabrey 4-8 6-7 17, Ali Patberg 0-0 0-0 0, Kristina Nelson 4-10 0-0 8, Erin Boley 2-6 2-2 8, Diamond Thompson 2-4 2-5 6. TOTALS: 40-65 15-21 107.

Central Michigan 9 20 28 47

Notre Dame 35 56 71 107

3-point field goals: Central Michigan 7-33 (Breen 2, Swary 5), Notre Dame 12-22 (Johnson, Allen, Ogunbowale 5, Mabrey 3, Boley 2); Rebounding: Central Michigan 33 (Frost 11), Notre Dame 45 (Nelson 9); Assists: Central Michigan 12 (Hudson 4), Notre Dame 29 (Allen 8); Total fouls (fouled out): Central Michigan 20 (Breen), Notre Dame 18 (none); Turnovers: Central Michigan 20 (Hudson 5), Notre Dame 11 (Thompson 3).

Central Michigan's Jewel Cotton (20) goes up for a shot between Notre Dame's Arike Ogunbowale, left, and Kathryn Westbeld (33) during the first half of Friday's game. Tribune photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN
Notre Dame's Arike Ogunbowale (24) goes up for a shot next to Central Michigan's Tinara Moore (2) during the first half of Friday's game. Tribune Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN
Notre Dame's Brianna Turner (11) looks for a shot as Central Michigan's Reyna Frost (13) and Aleah Swary (5) defend during the second half of Friday's game.