Notre Dame women take care of hoops road business
EAST LANSING, Mich. — Second-ranked Notre Dame has been on the road since losing at home to top-ranked Connecticut a couple weeks ago, picking up victories and gaining confidence. Coach Muffet McGraw believes this stretch of the season will pay off later and into the postseason.
Brianna Turner had 19 points, seven rebounds and five blocks, leading Notre Dame to a business-like 79-61 win Tuesday over Michigan State.
The Fighting Irish (11-1) have won three straight, against then-No. 16 DePaul, Toledo and Michigan State. They will stay on the road for three more games before finally playing at home Jan. 5 against Wake Forest in the Atlantic Coast Conference opener.
"It's going to prepare us for the ACC, and the NCAA Tournament," McGraw said. "It's great for us."
Notre Dame's Marina Mabrey had 19 points and five assists, one of three players on her team with at least five assists. Kathryn Westbeld scored 12 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. Reserve Arike Ogunbowale added 11 points. The Irish never trailed and led by as many as 13 in the first half and by 19 points in the second half.
The Spartans (10-3) had won four straight since getting beat by No. 19 Syracuse.
Michigan State's Tori Jankoska had 21 points, eight rebounds and five assists, but didn't get much help from her overmatched teammates.
"She's trying to put this team on her back," Spartans coach Suzy Merchant said. "She's done a pretty good job of that."
The only other player to score in double figures for Michigan State was reserve Victoria Gaines, who had 12 points.
Notre Dame made 3-pointers on ensuing possessions after allowing 3-pointers to the Spartans early in the game to prevent them from keeping the game closer and quieting their fans that filled much of the lower level at the Breslin Center. After the Spartans made consecutive shots to pull within 10 to get their crowd fired up early in the fourth, Turner responded with a basket on the next trip down the floor to put Notre Dame back ahead by 12 points.
"We hung around but couldn't get over the hump," Merchant said.
The Spartans saw up close how good an elite team is, and confirmed how far away they are from that level. If Aerial Powers was playing for them, instead of sitting in the stands after skipping her senior season to play in the WNBA, they would've likely been one of the top teams in the Big Ten and perhaps in the country. The Dallas Wings drafted Powers No. 5 overall and she averaged 10.4 points as a rookie.
"If they had her, she would have made a huge difference," McGraw said. "They would be really unstoppable."
Merchant said Powers would've likely scored 20 much-needed points against Notre Dame.
"We were one scorer away," she said.
Notre Dame: Guard Jackie Young returned from a two-game absence because of an ankle injury, but aggravated it again after playing just 2 minutes at Michigan State. "It's still not healed," McGraw said. Guard Ali Patberg has played sparingly in two games, 1 minute against the Spartans and 3 minutes at Toledo after missing eight games with a virus and being out last season with a knee injury.
Michigan State: Forward Jenna Allen, who ranks third on the team in scoring, scored two points in 14 minutes despite having the flu.
Members of Michigan State's men's basketball team, including Miles Bridges , who isn't wearing a walking boot on his injured left ankle, watched the first half of the game behind the Spartans' bench.
Notre Dame: The Irish play at Chattanooga on Dec. 27, their final non-conference game before opening ACC play Dec. 29 at North Carolina State.
Michigan State: The Spartans have a long break before their next game on Jan. 1 at home against Illinois.
Notre Dame (11-1): Marina Mabrey 7-15 2-2 19, Brianna Turner 7-15 5-8 19, Kathryn Westbeld 6-9 0-0 12, Arike Ogunbowale 5-13 1-2 11, Lindsay Allen 4-8 1-1 9, Erin Boley 1-1 4-4 6, Mychal Johnson 1-2 1-1 3, Kristina Nelson 0-0 0-0 0, Ali Patberg 0-0 0-0 0, Diamond Thompson 0-0 0-0 0, Jackie Young 0-0 0-0 0, Totals 31-63 14-18 79.
Michigan St. (10-3): Tori Jankoska 8-15 2-3 21, Victoria Gaines 5-8 0-0 12, Taryn McCutcheon 3-12 0-0 9, Branndais Agee 3-14 2-2 8, Mardrekia Cook 2-3 0-1 4, Taya Reimer 2-5 0-0 4, Jenna Allen 1-4 0-0 2, Kennedy Johnson 0-1 1-2 1, Lexi Gussert 0-0 0-0 0, Nia Hollie 0-2 0-0 0, Totals 24-64 5-8 61.
Notre Dame 25-16-21-17-79
Michigan St. 17-16-17-11-61
3-Point Goals--Notre Dame 3-9 (Mabrey 3-6, Johnson 0-1, Ogunbowale 0-2), Michigan St. 8-23 (Jankoska 3-6, McCutcheon 3-7, Gaines 2-2, Agee 0-6, Allen 0-2). Assists--Notre Dame 22 (Allen 6), Michigan St. 18 (McCutcheon 6). Fouled Out--None. Rebounds--Notre Dame 43 (Westbeld 11), Michigan St. 33 (Agee 9). Total Fouls--Notre Dame 14, Michigan St. 20. A--7,924.