Notre Dame women have too much firepower for Robert Morris in NCAA opener

Ken Klimek
Tribune Correspondent

SOUTH BEND – No St. Patrick's Day magic was necessary.

Admittedly a little rusty after a 12-day layoff, Notre Dame still had enough polish to do what it had to do to dump Robert Morris, 79-49, Friday night and advance to the second round of the NCAA women's basketball tournament.

The No. 1 seeded Irish (31-3), had 16 turnovers, but put four players in double figures and ended the No. 16 seed Colonials' season at 22-11. After a 10-10 tie in the opening quarter Notre Dame was never threatened.

The victory for the second-ranked Irish pushes them into a Sunday night battle with Purdue. The Boilers downed Green Bay, 74-62, in Friday's opening game at Purcell Pavilion. Sunday night's winner will meet either Ohio State or Kentucky in a regional semifinal game next Friday in Lexington, Ky.

“I was pleased with a lot of what I saw,” said Irish coach Muffet McGraw of Friday's game. “We were a little rusty, but overall I saw a lot of good things.”

One of those good things was limiting the Colonials to 26.6 percent shooting. It was the fourth time this season Notre Dame held an opponent to fewer than 50 points. Another “good thing” was getting some NCAA tourney experience for the Irish freshmen Jackie Young and Erin Boley (and even sophomore Ali Patberg who did not play because of a knee injury last season).

“They looked a little nervous,” said McGraw. But all three played significant time. Young and Boley each played 23 minutes. Patberg logged 15 minutes.

“We won't even look at the film of this one,” said McGraw. “We will just look ahead. It's survive and advance now.”

Brianna Turner and Arike Ogunbowale posted double-doubles for Notre Dame, with Ogunbowale scoring 15 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Turner also had 10 rebounds and five blocked shots to go with 13 points.

Marina Mabrey and Lindsay Allen helped fuel the Irish offense with 15 and 14 points respectively. Mabrey had nine points in the first quarter and Allen repeatedly took advantage of Robert Morris overplaying Turner, driving the lane for six layups.

No Irish player was on the floor for more than 28 minutes and all who played scored. Junior Kathryn Westbeld was held out of the game, saving her injured ankle for Sunday's second round. The game also marked the return of Mychal Johnson, who scored three points in 16 minutes. She had missed the ACC tourney and the last few Irish regular season games with an ankle injury.

Anna Niki Stamolamprou led the Colonials with 19 points, and she was a focus of the Notre Dame defense.

“We were trying to key on her. We kept our best defender on her as much as we could,” said McGraw.

Megan Smith added 10 points for Robert Morris.

Robert Morris three seniors were emotional after the game. Stamolamprou, of Greece, Rebeca Navarro of Spain and Jenee Brown of Maryland suited up for the last time for the Colonials. Brown, with a boot on her ankle, did not play because of the injury.

“These seniors did not want to quit,” Colonials coach Charlie Buscaglia said. “This team came a long way. It is killing me inside. I will really miss these three seniors.”

Stamolamprou credited Notre Dame's Allen with causing the most problems for her team's defense.

“Lindsay was amazing. She finds anyone anywhere on the floor,” she said.

Allen was credited with six assists Friday after posting three straight double-digit assist games in the recent ACC tourney.

The Irish rolled to a 39-25 halftime lead and stretched the final advantage of 30 points with 2:05 to play. McGraw continued to rotate players, using her bench.

“We got off to a bad start. We battled back,” said Buscaglia. “I always tell them to finish the race. We finished the race.”

Notre Dame shot 52.5 percent, but was only 33 percent (4 of 12) from the arc.

This first-round NCAA victory was the 11th straight for the Irish, who haven't lost an NCAA opener since 2009 against Minnesota. They have swept the last five first two-round games played at home.

ROBERT MORRIS (49): Megan Smith 10, Mihalah Mulrain 0, Nia Adams 2, Niki Stamolamprou 19, Rebeca Navarro 7, Shakema Dashiell 0, Jocelynn Jones 0, Jaylnn Burton-Jones 7, Nadege Pluviose 2, Nneka Ezeigbo 2. TOTALS 17-64 8-8 49

NOTRE DAME (79): Brianna Turner 13, Erin Boley 5, Marina Mabrey 15, Lindsay Allen 14, Arike Ogunbowale 15, Jackie Young 4, Mychal Johnson 3, Ali Patberg 2, Kristina Nelson 8. TOTALS 32-61 11-13 79

Robert Morris 12 25 39 49

Notre Dame 24 39 61 79

3-point: Robert Morris 7-24 (Stamolamprou 5, Navarro 1, Burton-Jones 1); ND 4-12 (Boley 1, Mabrey 1, Johnson 1, Ogunbowale 1); rebounds: Robert Morris 23 (Ezeigbo 6), ND 52 (Turner 10, Ogunbowale 10); turnovers: Robert Morris 9, ND 16

Notre Dame’s Jackie Young (5) shoots past Robert Morris’ Megan Smith (22) during the Notre Dame vs. Robert Morris NCAA Division 1 tournament game at Purcell Pavilion in South Bend Friday, March 17, 2017. Tribune Photo/MICHAEL CATERINA