Purring Notre Dame offense wipes out Pittsburgh Panthers

Anthony Anderson
Tribune Correspondent

SOUTH BEND — In a blink, Pitt was shoved into a pit.

The Panthers never had a prayer of clawing their way out, either.

Keyed by a pair of 21-0 runs during an overwhelming first-half performance, No. 2 Notre Dame crushed Pittsburgh, 100-44, in each team’s Atlantic Coast Conference women’s basketball opener Thursday night at Purcell Pavilion.

With each starter’s damage coming during the first three quarters, Marina Mabrey scored 20 points and dealt seven assists, Arike Ogunbowale netted 18 points and Jackie Young tallied 16 as the Irish improved to 13-1.

The Panthers dropped to 9-6 in front of a crowd announced at 8,566.

Young scored her sixth point of the game and 1,000th of her career just 3:13 into the evening, becoming the 40th player in program history to reach a grand.

The junior received a warm ovation from the crowd and from her teammates when her milestone was announced during the next timeout

Notre Dame, beginning its sixth season in the ACC, improved to 41-0 in the league all-time at home.

Jessica Shepard compiled an odd first-half line, going 0-of-7 from the field, but pulling in 10 rebounds and dishing five assists to blend with 4-of-4 at the line. She finished the night at a game-high 11 boards and six points.

Brianna Turner added all of her nine points in the first half and closed with three blocked shots.

Ogunbowale poured in 17 points and Mabrey 14 over the opening two periods. Notre Dame went on 21-0 sprees in both the first and second quarters on its way to taking a 60-14 lead by halftime.

The purring Irish offensive machine scored on 11 of its first 12 possessions while grabbing a 23-2 lead with the first 21-0 spurt, that one spanning six minutes.

ND’s second 21-0 run occurred over a stretch of merely five minutes to push the spread to 53-12 at four minutes left in the opening half.

During that one, the Irish scored their points in threesomes five consecutive times — a pair of triples by Mabrey, one by Jordan Nixon, and Turner and Ogunbowale each converting free throws after baskets.

The Irish played mostly zone while building their commanding advantage, mixing in occasional half-court traps.

By halftime, ND already had 15 assists and seven steals, three from Mabrey.

Pittsburgh committed 14 turnovers before the break to five for the hosts, who also had a 31-17 rebounding advantage during the opening 20 minutes.

The Irish were whistled for just two fouls before the intermission to the Panthers’ 13.

The 14 points that Notre Dame allowed was its second-fewest given up during a half in an ACC game, behind only the 11 allowed during the opening half of an 80-41 win over Virginia Tech in January 2016.

Pitt made just 6-of-31 field goals in the first half, including 2-of-11 on 3s, to go with 0-of-1 at the line. The Irish were 21-of-39 from the field by halftime, including 5-of-9 outside the arc, to go with 13-of-17 at the stripe.

In the third quarter, ND added two more double-digit runs, each of them 10-0, the second giving the Irish their largest lead of the night, 81-19, at 2:35 to go in the period.

Freshman Nixon and sophomore Mikayla Vaughn each scored nine points off the bench for Notre Dame.

Jasmine Whitney led the Panthers, who had won seven of their last eight going in, with nine points.

The Irish play their first ACC road game of the season Sunday when they visit Georgia Tech (11-3) for a 3 p.m. tip. That’s followed by next Thursday’s 7 p.m. home showdown against No. 3 Louisville on ESPN.

Five, grand

Young reaching 1,000 points gives Notre Dame five 1,000-point career scorers on its active roster for the second straight season.

Based on information shared through Stats Inc., on Dec. 20, the ND women are believed to be the only NCAA Division I program to feature five 1,000-point career scorers two straight seasons — men or women — in at least 15 years.

Last season, Ogunbowale, Mabrey, Shepard, Lili Thompson and Kathryn Westbeld all wound up 1,000-point scorers (transfers Shepard and Thompson were, in fact, over 1,000 before the season began), and they were all active together at some point during the season for the Irish.

This season, Young joins Ogunbowale, Mabrey, Shepard and Brianna Turner in forming the 1,000-point fivesome. Turner sat out all of last season while recovering from a knee injury.

The Dec. 20 compilation by Stats Inc., included players who began their careers in 1999-2000 or later.

At the time, the only women’s programs to have five 1,000-point scorers active in the same season all came within these last three seasons. They included Florida State and Louisville in 2016-17, Connecticut and Notre Dame last season, and Marquette this season.

On the men’s side, the lone teams that had five 1,000-point scorers active in the same season were Providence and national champion Florida in 2006-07, George Washington and North Florida in 2015-16, and Nevada already this season.

Notre Dame’s Marina Mabrey (3) and Jackie Young (5) strip the ball from Pitt’s Jasmine Whitney (3) during Thursday’s game in South Bend.
Notre Dame’s Brianna Turner (11) is fouled by Pitt’s Danielle Garven (1) during Thursday's game at Notre Dame.
Notre Dame’s Jessica Shepard (32) drives against Pitt’s Jaala Henry (22) during Thursday's game.