Notre Dame F Kristina Nelson will return for fifth season in 2017-18

Ken Klimek
Tribune Correspondent

SOUTH BEND – There was plenty to smile about in the Notre Dame women’s basketball program Monday.

The Irish, fresh off a come-from-behind victory over No. 20 Syracuse Sunday, learned that they had climbed to No. 5 in the collegiate poll and were informed that sophomore Marina Mabrey was selected the Atlantic Coast Conference player of the week.

Coach Muffet McGraw, at her radio show Monday at O’Rourke’s Public House at Eddy Street Commons, also announced that Kristina Nelson would be coming back to play another season for the Irish.

“I am thrilled with Koko’s (Nelson) decision to play another year,'' McGraw said. "She will be going to graduate school to try to get her master’s degree.''

Nelson missed what would have been her sophomore season following shoulder surgery, giving her another year of athletic ability remaining.

“She has a fabulous attitude and I love what she has done with our team,” said McGraw.

Nelson has played in 27 of the 28 games this year, averaging 3.9 points and 3.1 rebounds.

She scored a career-high 13 points against Pittsburgh in January, the same month she posted a career-high five assists against Wake Forest.

Because she is returning next season, Nelson will not participate in senior day ceremonies prior to Thursday night’s home game against Boston College.

Only seniors Lindsay Allen and Diamond Thompson will not return next year.

Fans are asked to be seated by 6:40 for the senior day activities.

Mabrey earned the ACC player of the week honors after she scored a career-high 29 points against Clemson, and followed that up with a 22-point outburst Sunday against Syracuse. The Syracuse victory assures Notre Dame of a double bye in next week’s ACC postseason tournament.

“She is shooting the three really well right now,” said McGraw. “We want her at the free throw line. She is shooting almost 90 percent from the line.”

Mabrey shot 62 percent from the floor in the games against Clemson and Syracuse, 55 percent from the 3-point line and 93 percent from the free-throw line. Her 13-point first quarter helped the Irish come back from an early 13-point deficit against the Orange.

Mabrey is second on the team in assists to Allen in ACC play, averaging 2.7 per game. She has scored at a 25.3 clip through the last three games.

A victory over Boston College would assure Notre Dame of at least a tie for the ACC championship. Two straight home victories clinch the fourth consecutive outright crown for the Irish.

Notre Dame’s Kristina Nelson (21) puts up a shot during the Fordham at Notre Dame women's basketball game at Purcell Pavilion in South Bend Monday, Nov. 14, 2016. Tribune Photo/MICHAEL CATERINA