Notre Dame women blast Iowa, prepare for UConn
SOUTH BEND — First, Brianna Turner swatted an end to Megan Gustafson’s dazzling string of perfection that stretched six quarters.
By mere moments later, dazzling Notre Dame was collectively swatting away Iowa like the No. 14-ranked team in the nation was a mere gnat.
Crisply tuning up for Sunday’s No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown against Connecticut, the Irish crushed the Hawkeyes, 105-71, in women’s college basketball Thursday night at Purcell Pavilion.
The Irish (7-0) outscored Iowa 20-3 over the opening five minutes of the third quarter, extending a 45-34 halftime lead to 65-37.
Arike Ogunbowale scored 30 points for the third time this season and Marina Mabrey, in just her second game of the season, added 18 points and five assists against just one turnover while logging 23 minutes.
Turner tallied 14 points to go with a game-high 11 rebounds, and it was her block of a Gustafson shot 16 seconds into the third quarter that seemed to ignite the Irish during their 20-3 spree.
Gustafson, the Hawkeyes’ smooth inside ace and the nation’s leading scorer last season, had made all of her six field goal tries in the first half, that after going 8-for-8 in her last game against Florida State.
Jackie Young contributed 15 points, seven rebounds and six assists for ND, while Jessica Shepard gave the Irish five players in double figures with 10 points, eight boards and three of her team’s nine steals.
Gustafson led Iowa (4-2) with 26 points and 10 rebounds. She finished 11-of-16 from the field — making her 53-of-67 over her last five games. Tania Davis added 15 points.
On the way to a season-high 105 points, Notre Dame committed just nine turnovers.
Cleaning up some early-season sloppiness, the Irish have averaged just 8.0 turnovers over their last three games after averaging 18.8 over their first four.
Ogunbowale notched her seventh career outing of at least 30 points, tying Jewell Loyd’s Notre Dame record that was established from 2012-15.
Mabrey, who missed the first five games of the season with a left quadriceps injury, appeared momentarily gassed while playing the first 8:08 of the second quarter, but resumed an effective night in the second half.
The Irish finished 40-of-81 from the field for 49 percent to the Hawkeyes’ 29-of-69 for 42 percent.
ND, with Ogunbowale going 3-of-5 and Mabrey 3-of-9, also drained 8-of-19 on 3-pointers to Iowa’s 5-of-25.
Twenty-five of Notre Dame’s 49 rebounds came at the offensive end — six by Turner — helping to fuel the Irish to 32-12 domination in second-chance points.
ND won its 22nd straight game against Big Ten programs over the last 10 seasons.
Irish freshman Katlyn Gilbert, who wears a harness on her problematic right shoulder, did not return to the game after appearing to injure that same shoulder early in the third quarter.
Sunday’s battle with UConn will rematch the teams that met in a national semifinal last spring, when the Irish prevailed 91-89 on Ogunbowale’s first of two game-winning baskets in the Final Four.
The Huskies are coming off a 99-63 rout Wednesday over No. 16 visiting DePaul, a team ND also beat, 101-77 on Nov. 17 in Chicago.
Nixon nixed again
Irish freshman point guard Jordan Nixon sat out a fourth straight game Thursday after suffering a concussion in the Nov. 17 contest at DePaul.
Nixon did not express symptoms of a concussion until two days after the DePaul game, according to coach Muffet McGraw, but has been sidelined since.
She did engage in pre-practice bicycle work before Wednesday’s practice.
ND still has not played a game this season with every scholarship player available. Mabrey missed the first five games due to injury. Shepard and Danielle Patterson have missed one each.
Demand for UConn
Sunday’s 4 p.m. game against UConn is sold out, ND’s first home sellout since since Feb. 26, 2017, against Florida State.
According to ND spokesperson Josh Bates, more than 50 media credentials have been requested, that being more than double the typical amount for an Irish home game.
Additionally, scouts from at least seven of the WNBA’s 12 teams have asked for spots.
Four seniors for Notre Dame and two for the Huskies are projected to be WNBA draft picks next spring.