Notre Dame wallops Georgia Tech

Anthony Anderson
Tribune Correspondent

SOUTH BEND

It wasn’t quite Warhol-worthy as far as Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw was concerned, but it was WNBA-worthy as far as Georgia Tech coach MaChelle Joseph was concerned.

With Marina Mabrey scoring 20 points and hitting 6-of-7 on 3-pointers, and Jackie Young adding 18 points and eight rebounds in her second outing back from a sprained ankle, the Irish shredded the Yellow Jackets, 90-50, in a women’s college basketball game that featured a 41-point margin by halftime Sunday afternoon at Purcell Pavilion.

Afterwards, Joseph declared ND “the best team in the country,” never mind its No. 5 ranking that resulted from a four-spot drop after losing last week at North Carolina.

“In my opinion, they have five first-round draft picks that are starters,” Joseph said. “I think they could beat a lot of WNBA teams the way they compete. They’re efficient, they know their roles and they all play to their strengths, and that’s dangerous for anybody.”

To celebrate Super Bowl Sunday, the Irish put their guests from Super Bowl city Atlanta into a super-sized hole by the intermission — 54-13.

Along the way, they held Tech pointless for a stretch of 11 minutes, 3 seconds, while turning a 22-10 advantage into a 46-10 count.

Notre Dame (21-2, 8-1) moved into a three-way tie for the Atlantic Coast Conference lead thanks to No. 7 North Carolina State’s 64-51 home loss to North Carolina. No. 3 Louisville is also 8-1 in the league.

The Jackets fell to 13-9 and 3-6.

“That was a great first half,” McGraw said. “I thought our defense the first half was really terrific. We found the shooters, rebound and ran. I mean, we did everything we wanted to do. To hold them to 13 points (including three in the second quarter), that was really something to be happy with.”

Happy enough to call it ND’s most impressive half all season?

“I don’t think so,” McGraw said. “I don’t think we’ve come close to our masterpiece yet, and that’s what we’re trying to do every day — paint our masterpiece, and we’re still a little ways away from that.”

With 14 points, Young personally outscored Tech in the first half. Jessica Shepard added 11 of her 13 by the break and Arike Ogunbowale 10 of her 12.

“I think Jackie Young has been a player that has gotten overlooked,” Joseph said of Notre Dame’s lone junior starter alongside four seniors, “and when she didn’t play against North Carolina (a 78-73 road loss), I think that really showed everybody what she really brings to the table, and that’s not taking away from anybody else they have.

“She’s the guard that really digs out rebounds for them and pushes the ball,” Joseph added.

“Her quickness and her speed, you can’t match it. I had an appreciation for all their players before, but I think when you see them without her, you realize how valuable she is to their team.”

Mabrey’s not about to quibble with that.

“She brings everything,” ND’s 3-point ace said of her backcourt mate. “I feel like Jackie’s an all-around versatile player. She grabs the rebounds, she goes in there and scores. She can drive it, she makes great passes, is always helping me on defense, so I feel like I just have a really good connection with her on defense, and the offense, we’re missing her when she’s not there.”

Young, who said her ankle is 100 percent, shrugged at both the praise and the perception that she’s underrated.

“I just try not to pay too much attention to that,” said Young, now averaging 16.5 points, 9.3 rebounds and 5.8 assists over her last four outings to go with 63 percent shooting from the field. “We have a great team, and you can’t really focus on just one player on our team, because there’s other people that will hurt you.”

Like Mabrey, who remained branding-iron hot outside the arc.

She drained a trio of triples in a span of 1:11 early in the third quarter — a personal 9-0 run — as the Irish stretched their lead to 63-17.

“I’m getting really good passes from my teammates,” said Mabrey, who is 27-of-46 on 3s for 59 percent over her last seven games. “They’re waiting for me to get there, letting me set my feet, so credit to my teammates.”

Mabrey scored at least 20 points for the third straight contest and added a game-high five assists.

Brianna Turner, despite playing just 19 minutes, scored eight points, grabbed seven rebounds and matched a season high with five blocks.

Shepard tied a season high in steals with four while playing just 21 minutes.

The all good news from an Irish perspective continued after the game when McGraw said sophomore center Mikayla Vaughn will “be fine.”

Vaughn went down with 4:04 left in the third quarter grimacing in pain and intensely clutching the area around her left knee, the same one to which she suffered a season-ending torn ligament in November 2017.

After a couple minutes, though, she was able to walk to the bench under her own power.

McGraw described the injury as a hyperextension.

ND reserves played a combined 84 minutes. Freshman Jordan Nixon led the way with 24 minutes, eight points and three assists.

The Jackets were paced by Elizabeth Dixon with 12 points.

Fellow freshman Elizabeth Balogun, coming off a 35-point performance at North Carolina, added seven, but all came in the second half and she closed just 3-of-15 from the field.

Tech shot just 22 percent as a team, to 56 percent for the Irish.

“Notre Dame’s defense is good,” Joseph said. “They play hard and they’re long. They’ve got great length in their zone, but we didn’t execute, and our freshmen and our young players were like deer in headlights. They’d never played here and it was an eye-opening experience.”

The Irish, in their sixth season in the league, improved to 45-0 all-time in ACC home play.

Notre Dame visits Miami (19-5, 7-2) on Thursday, then hosts No. 24 Florida State (19-3, 7-2) next Sunday.

GEORGIA TECH (13-9): Lor. Cubaj 3-12 1-2 7, Eli. Dixon 6-12 0-0 12, Eli. Balogun 3-15 0-0 7, Kie. Fletcher 1-8 4-4 6, Fra. Pan 1-7 1-2 3, Ann. Diouf 1-2 1-1 3, Mar. Fortune 0-0 0-0 0, D’a. Gregg 0-5 0-0 0, Dai. Jefferson 0-5 0-0 0, Jas. Carson 1-6 1-2 4, Lot. Lahtinen 2-9 0-0 6, Kon. Montgomery 0-1 0-0 0, Cha. Scott 0-1 2-2 2, Totals 18-83 10-13 50.<

NOTRE DAME (21-2): Jes. Shepard 5-7 3-4 13, Bri. Turner 3-6 2-2 8, Mar. Mabrey 7-10 0-1 20, Ari. Ogunbowale 4-10 3-4 12, Jac. Young 8-11 2-2 18, Mau. Butler 0-1 0-2 0, Dan. Cosgrove 1-2 0-0 3, Dan. Patterson 1-3 1-2 3, Mik. Vaughn 1-2 1-2 3, Nic. Benz 0-0 0-0 0, Jor. Nixon 2-3 4-4 8, Abb. Prohaska 1-4 0-0 2, Totals 33-59 16-23 90.<

Georgia Tech 10 3 17 20 — 50

Notre Dame 28 26 20 16 — 90

3-Point Goals—Georgia Tech 4-30 (Eli. Balogun 1-9, Kie. Fletcher 0-2, Fra. Pan 0-4, D’a. Gregg 0-2, Dai. Jefferson 0-1, Jas. Carson 1-6, Lot. Lahtinen 2-6), Notre Dame 8-12 (Mar. Mabrey 6-7, Ari. Ogunbowale 1-3, Dan. Cosgrove 1-1, Jor. Nixon 0-1). Assists—Georgia Tech 10 (Lor. Cubaj 2), Notre Dame 21 (Mar. Mabrey 5). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—Georgia Tech 48 (Lor. Cubaj 7), Notre Dame 45 (Jac. Young 8). Total Fouls—Georgia Tech 20, Notre Dame 13. Technical Fouls—None.A—8,530.

Notre Dame’s Marina Mabrey (3) shoots a 3-point basket in front of Georgia Tech’s Francesca Pan during Sunday’s game in South Bend. Mabrey was 6-for-7 in 3-pointers in the 90-50 Irish win.
Georgia Tech’s Kierra Fletcher, left, gets pressure from Notre Dame’s Jackie Young during Sunday’s game in South Bend.
Notre Dame’s Jordan Nixon (0) tries to strip the ball from Georgia Tech’s Kierra Fletcher (41) during Sunday’s game in South Bend.