Notre Dame goes from sloppy to superb against Georgia Tech

Anthony Anderson
Tribune Correspondent

SOUTH BEND — Arike Ogunbowale and Jackie Young stuffed much of the stat sheet for Notre Dame, but it’s where they avoided it entirely after halftime that proved pivotal for the Irish.

Ogunbowale combined 27 points with seven rebounds, five assists and three steals as No. 5-ranked ND shook off upset-minded Georgia Tech for an 85-69 women’s college basketball victory Sunday afternoon at Purcell Pavilion.

Young added 22 points, seven boards, seven assists and five steals to go with 10-of-13 shooting from the field.

More uncharacteristically, she and Ogunbowale paired to pile up nine first-half turnovers as the pressing Yellow Jackets fought to a 39-39 tie by the break.

Young and Ogunbowale’s combined second-half turnover count: Zero.

“We knew we were going to be a little rusty,” Young said of the Irish, who hadn’t played since the previous Sunday. “So we knew the second half, we’d be fine. We came out and got defensive stops, then got transition buckets.”

Notre Dame improved to 23-2 and moved back into a tie atop the Atlantic Coast Conference with No. 4 Louisville at 11-1. The Yellow Jackets dropped to 15-11 and 4-9.

When the two teams met five weeks ago, the Irish rolled to a 48-18 advantage by halftime of a 77-54 victory.

Yet, Tech arrived at Purcell undaunted for the rematch.

With their end-to-end hawking, the Jackets forced 15 Notre Dame turnovers in the opening half.

ND committed just four more during the second half.

“I don’t think they’re used to seeing that kind of full-court pressure,” Tech coach MaChelle Joseph said of the Irish. “But Coach (Muffet) McGraw did a good job at halftime with their adjustments, (specifically) getting the ball into Arike’s hands at half-court, and she made plays. That’s why she’s one of the best players in the country.”

Joseph added that “Jackie’s quickness getting it across half-court” was also a difference.

“A lot of them were good ideas that just went awry,” McGraw said about ND’s first-half cough-ups. “That part was better (than the outcome suggested), because we were making pretty good decisions. We just weren’t catching them really well, and throwing it just a little bit off.”

The Irish scored the first six points of the third quarter to take the lead for good at 45-39.

The Jackets got as close as 54-52 with four minutes to go in the period, but from there, Notre Dame set sail on a 25-4 spree for a 79-56 lead with 6:15 remaining in the game.

“I think we have flashes of brilliance,” McGraw said. “I mean, I don’t know how I would guard us sometimes when we’re really operating on all cylinders and moving the ball. We had a couple times on press offense that the ball never hit the floor and we got a layup, so there are some things we are doing that are really, really good, but I always think there’s room for improvement.”

An irony Sunday was that Tech was intent on wearing out an ND team that’s down to seven scholarship players due to injuries, yet the second half was when the Irish were at their best.

“I think it’s a little of both,” Young said of whether it was love for basketball or conditioning that most fueled the win. “We condition a lot in the summer and it just ran over into the season, but I think it’s just a love for the game, too, just playing through it. … We know we’re going to play a lot of minutes each night.”

Young played 39. So did Marina Mabrey, while Ogunbowale finished at 36.

Conversely, Francesca Pan led the Jackets at 34 minutes, while another eight players were next at between 14 and 26 apiece.

“We really buckled down defensively — I thought that was a big key,” McGraw said after ND outscored Tech 46-30 in the second half.

The Jackets finished with 23 turnovers — 14 on Irish steals — and in the second half were just 13-of-32 from the field with one 3-pointer.

Jessica Shepard scored 15 points for Notre Dame and led all players with 11 rebounds.

Kathryn Westbeld added 10 points on 5-of-5 marksmanship from the field, while Mabrey finished with seven points, seven assists and four steals.

The Irish won their 21st straight home game and improved to 38-0 all-time at home in ACC play.

Notre Dame hits the road for its next two games, beginning with a Thursday visit to Virginia. The Cavaliers are third in the conference at 9-3.

GEORGIA TECH (15-11): Brown 2-3 0-0 4, Cubaj 1-3 0-0 2, Fletcher 5-7 0-0 10, Pan 5-16 0-0 12, Peresson 1-7 0-0 3, Edeferioka 3-5 0-2 6, O'Neil 1-3 0-0 2, Pugh 4-9 5-5 13, Scott 4-11 0-0 10, Tilford 3-6 0-0 7, Totals 29-70 5-7 69.

NOTRE DAME (23-2): Shepard 5-12 5-9 15, Westbeld 5-5 0-2 10, Mabrey 3-10 0-0 7, Ogunbowale 8-19 8-9 27, Young 10-13 2-3 22, Butler 0-0 0-0 0, Nelson 2-4 0-0 4, Patterson 0-2 0-0 0, Benz 0-0 0-0 0, Cole 0-1 0-0 0, Totals 33-66 15-23 85.

Georgia Tech     17     39     54     69

Notre Dame     21    39     64     85

3-Point Goals-Georgia Tech 6-17 (Pan 2-6, Peresson 1-7, Scott 2-3, Tilford 1-1), Notre Dame 4-14 (Mabrey 1-6, Ogunbowale 3-7, Cole 0-1). Assists-Georgia Tech 14 (Cubaj 2), Notre Dame 22 (Mabrey 7). Fouled Out-Georgia Tech Cubaj, Rebounds-Georgia Tech 42 (Edeferioka 11), Notre Dame 38 (Shepard 11). Total Fouls-Georgia Tech 23, Notre Dame 15. Technical Fouls-None.A_8,421.

Notre Dame's Arike Ogunbowale (24) grabs a rebound next to Georgia Tech's Kierra Fletcher (41) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Sunday, Feb. 11, 2018, in South Bend, Ind. Notre Dame won 85-69. (AP Photo/Robert Franklin)