Monster second quarter helps Notre Dame women's basketball cruise

Ken Klimek
Tribune Correspondent

SOUTH BEND — Back home against a struggling opponent was good medicine for the Notre Dame women’s basketball team Thursday night.

The No. 7 Irish (14-2 and 2-1 ACC) used an explosive first half, before coasting through a ragged second half to post a 92-72 victory over Wake Forest.

Notre Dame shot 60 percent from the field, helped by an incredible 15-of-17 shooting performance in the second quarter.

“It was good to get home,” said Irish coach Muffet McGraw. “I was pleased the way we executed. We got good shots.”

The solid Notre Dame offensive showing, which included 10-of-16 3-point shooting, was in contrast to the last two games when the half-court offense was stagnant and the transition game taken away.

Wake Forest, 9-5, was hampered by the loss of four players to injury for part or all of the season. The Demon Deacons dressed only eight for the matchup with the Irish. They played without Courtney Simmons, a starter, and Jill Brunori and Destini Walker, both of whom would have played significant minutes. Raegyn Branch and Taylor Gordon also are out for the season with injuries.

Wake stayed with the Irish early and trailed only 21-15 after one quarter. But a monster second quarter when Notre Dame scored 34 points, put the game out of reach early. Arike Ogunbowale scored 14 and Brianna Turner 12 points in the first half, when the Irish shot a blistering 65 percent, including 88.2 percent in that second quarter.

“We got energy from the home crowd,” said Notre Dame sophomore Arike Ogunbowale, who again led the Irish in scoring with 22 points.

Five Irish players finished in double figures. Turner had 15, Marina Mabrey 14, Lindsay Allen 12 and Erin Boley 11.

Six of 10 shooting from the 3-point line kept Wake competitive through two quarters, but the Demon Deacons had no answer for Notre Dame’s attack. The Irish forced 12 first-half turnovers while getting the kinks out of their transition game

Everyone logged plenty of minutes for Notre Dame except for senior Diamond Thompson, who is sidelined with a minor injury. Thompson was on the bench but not in uniform.

The Demon Deacons were 10 of 18 from the 3-point line and the inability to guard the long range shot did frustrate McGraw.

“We just need to know the scouting reports. We are not aggressive enough,” she said.

The Irish needed an easy win after the offensive struggles of late. And the romp came just in time. Notre Dame travels to Miami for a 2 p.m. game Sunday with Miami, ranked No. 14. That ACC beauty will be televised by ESPN2.

McGraw is pleased with her team’s rotation and knows it takes time for a number of groups on the floor to gel. But she wants to get freshman Jackie Young jump started. Young, the all-time high school basketball scorer in Indiana did have a 20-point game earlier in the season, but has not found the basket much lately.

Young did play 18 minutes, but scored only two points.

“Jackie is an important part of our team. We need her to get going. We have to have her,” said McGraw. “She just needs to relax and play.”

Kristina Nelson played 18 minutes in the post for the Irish and had four points, six rebounds and a career-high five assists.

Turner also had six rebounds.

The entire Irish passing game looked sharp Thursday, both in the half court and in transition.

Wake Forest coach Jen Hoover was happy with her team’s offense, but not the defense.

“You can’t let a team shoot 15 of 17 in one quarter and win many games in this league,” she said. “They are a high-octane offense. We needed to do something to stop them. We didn’t. Thank God halftime came.”

Ariel Stephenson scored 17 to lead Wake Forest. Elisa Penn added 16, Amber Campbell 11 and Alex Sharp 10. This is the first time this season that Notre Dame has allowed more than 70 points and won.

Wake Forest (9-5)

Ariel Stephenson 5-14 4-4 17, Elisa Penna 7-16 0-0 16, Amber Campbell 3-5 4-4 11, Alex Sharp 3-6 1-2 10, Milan Quinn 4-8 1-2 9, Tyra Whitehead 2-2 2-2 6, Clarisse Berranger 1-1 0-0 3, Ona Udoh 0-0 0-0 0, Totals 25-52 12-14 72.

Notre Dame (14-2)

Arike Ogunbowale 8-11 2-3 22, Brianna Turner 7-12 1-2 15, Marina Mabrey 5-11 0-0 14, Lindsay Allen 6-8 0-0 12, Erin Boley 4-7 1-2 11, Kathryn Westbeld 4-5 0-0 8, Kristina Nelson 3-5 0-0 6, Mychal Johnson 1-2 0-0 2, Jackie Young 1-4 0-0 2, Ali Patberg 0-0 0-0 0, Totals 39-65 4-7 92.

Wake Forest 15 17 20 20 —72

Notre Dame 21 34 21 16 —92

3-Point Goals--Wake Forest 10-18 (Sharp 3-5, Stephenson 3-6, Penna 2-4, Campbell 1-2, Berranger 1-1), Notre Dame 10-16 (Mabrey 4-6, Ogunbowale 4-5, Boley 2-4, Johnson 0-1). Assists--Wake Forest 16 (Quinn 5), Notre Dame 28 (Nelson 5). Fouled Out--None. Rebounds--Wake Forest 28 (Quinn 10), Notre Dame 29 (Turner 6). Total Fouls--Wake Forest 17, Notre Dame 16. A--8,691.

Notre Dame’s Arike Ogunbowale (24) pumps her fist on the bench during the Wake Forest at Notre Dame women’s basketball game at Purcell Pavilion in South Bend, Thursday, Jan. 5, 2017. Tribune Photo/MICHAEL CATERINA