Notre Dame women roll over Western Kentucky
It was expected to be an uphill climb all night for the Hilltoppers. As it turned out, they never even sniffed anything beyond the base of the mountain.
Keyed by its most accurate half of field-goal shooting in 28 years, No. 2-ranked Notre Dame raced to a 53-15 lead by halftime while crushing Western Kentucky, 94-53, in women’s college basketball Wednesday night at Purcell Pavilion.
On pace most of the evening to set a single-game program record for field goal precision, the Irish closed at a third-best 69.8 percent (37-of-53), just off the 70.2 that was achieved in February 1985 against Xavier and matched in December 2011 against Mercer.
Marina Mabrey scored 20 points in 25 minutes, Arike Ogunbowale 16 in 26, Jessica Shepard 12 in 24 and Brianna Turner 10 in 22.
Shepard went 6-for-6 from the field and has a streak of 15 makes intact over parts of three outings heading into ND’s next game. The Irish record is 17 in a row by Carey Poor in 1994.
Mabrey drained 4-of-4 from 3-point range and 7-of-9 from the field overall. She also racked up five of the winners’ 12 steals.
Turner closed 4-of-4 from the field, 2-of-2 at the line and matched her season high with four blocked shots.
Jordan Nixon added 12 points in 23 minutes off the bench, hitting 3-of-4 tries from distance as the Irish closed at 8-of-12 outside the arc.
Notre Dame (10-1) converted 21-of-26 shots from the field in the first half for 80.8 percent, its best mark in any half since registering those exact same figures in 1990 against Xavier.
With four different players tallying during the opening three minutes, the Irish grabbed an 8-0 lead and were never threatened.
ND led 23-8 after one quarter, with Turner recording as many blocks in that period as Western had field goals while shooting 3-of-17.
The Irish frequently changed defenses in the opening half — using man to man, multiple zone looks and occasional backcourt pressure — with Western at times appearing unable to execute against any of it.
By intermission, Notre Dame had outscored the Toppers 18-0 on fast-break points, 21-4 off turnovers and 34-8 in the paint. The ratios didn’t get much less lopsided over the final two periods.
During the final quarter-plus, the Irish typically had no more than one starter on the floor, and all their starters were out for good by the 6:07 mark of the fourth period with ND holding an 83-38 lead.
At that point, the Irish were 33-of-45 from the field for 73.3 percent.
Notre Dame, coming off a 103-53 home win Sunday over Binghamton, notched its third straight victory since falling to now-No. 1 Connecticut.
Mabrey, who missed the first five games this season with a quadriceps injury, scored 15 first-half points for the second straight outing as she continued to look like her old self.
She has made at least one 3-pointer in 24 straight games, second-best streak in ND history to Beth (Morgan) Cunningham’s 35.
Dee Givens and Raneem Elgedway led the Toppers (5-8) with 10 points apiece, but went a combined 8-of-33 from the field as Western finished 21-of-69 for 30.4 percent.
The Irish play their final game before their holiday break when they visit No. 19 Marquette (9-2) on Saturday in Milwaukee.
The 1:30 p.m. ET contest at the Al McGuire Center, which seats just 3,700, is a sellout and will be nationally televised by FS1.
ND returns home for a first-ever meeting against Lehigh (7-2) at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 30.
If the Irish beat Marquette, then the Lehigh matchup will provide coach Muffet McGraw a chance to earn her 900th collegiate head coaching win against none other than the same program with which she started her career in 1982.
McGraw’s 898-272 record includes 810-231 in her 32nd season at Notre Dame, that on the heels of an 88-41 mark over five years at Lehigh.