Notre Dame puts on a show on Senior Day
Jackie Young deferred her way to 11 assists during a record-setting triple-double afternoon, yet the junior’s greatest deference may have been how eagerly she gave over a starting spot to Maureen Butler on a title-clinching and salute-filled Senior Day.
All four of Notre Dame’s scholarship seniors — Arike Ogunbowale, Brianna Turner, Jessica Shepard and Marina Mabrey — unleashed performances befitting their accomplishment-oozing careers as the No. 4 Irish stormed to a 103-66 women’s college basketball victory over Virginia in front of a sold-out crowd Sunday at Purcell Pavilion.
Young, not to be outdone by her fellow stars, became the first ND player ever to record two triple-doubles in the same season, adding 22 points and 10 rebounds to those 11 assists.
She did it coming off the bench, too, her usual starting slot going to Butler due to coach Muffet McGraw continuing a tradition of having all the seniors start — when there aren’t more than five — on Senior Day.
Young didn’t mind a bit.
“Mo’s great,” she said of Butler, a second-year walk-on who played the first 2:04 and exited with Notre Dame up 8-2. “We all love Mo. I was glad she was able to start today. I can’t imagine how she felt, lots of nerves and everything, but she went out there and played well.
“It was just really fun to see her play, and to see all her friends and family out there,” said Young, who had started all of the other 68 games she’d played in over the last two seasons.
“They had like fatheads up and stuff, so a really great day for her.”
It was a really great day for all the Irish, who earned a share of their eighth straight regular-season conference title — the last six in the Atlantic Coast, the first two in the Big East — and assured themselves the No. 1 seed over co-titleist Louisville in the upcoming ACC Tournament.
“We just have so many weapons on offense, and we’re just starting to peak now,” McGraw said after ND extended its single-season record for 100-point games to seven. “I feel like we’re in a great place. Heading into the tournament as the No. 1 seed is exactly where we want to be.”
Ogunbowale led the Irish (27-3, 14-2) with 24 points and swished a career-best six 3-pointers in just eight tries.
Turner flirted with perfection on her way to 21 points, going 8-of-9 from the field and 5-of-6 at the line. She added game highs of four blocked shots, all in the first half, and three steals.
Shepard chipped in 19 points and eight rebounds, and Mabrey closed with 12 points, eight assists and seven rebounds.
To a rousing ovation, all four senior stars checked out of the game for good at 4:37 to go with the Irish leading 101-57.
A postgame program honoring the seniors, unprecedented under McGraw’s watch, was greeted by nearly everybody in the crowd staying put. Beating traffic didn’t matter.
“It’s been so exciting to play here,” Turner said. “One of the reasons I came here is to play for Coach McGraw and her staff — and just the fans out there. It makes a huge difference playing in front of 700 versus 7,000, so just knowing on a consistent basis at home that we’re going to have those kinds of fans and that kind of support … even in the community, it seems like when we go to the store, we go to the movies, someone always knows us and talks to us. It’s really a great feeling.”
“Such veterans (and) such great teammates,” McGraw said of her seniors. “We had no drama. When you have 12 women, it doesn’t happen very often, so it’s great to see they took care of things in the locker room. They helped the freshmen come along. It’s kind of a big jump there (from high school to college). We had a lot of freshmen and a lot of seniors, and they did such a great job of trying to bring them in and getting them to understand what we need to do, so it’s their mentorship, their leadership.
“They’re so ready for the next level,” McGraw added of the scholarship foursome, all expected to play professionally, “and yet they never came into practice and went through the motions. They worked hard every day.”
Against the Cavaliers, Notre Dame zipped to a 16-2 lead by just 3:20 into the game.
Virginia (11-18, 5-11), buoyed by some strong offensive rebounding, settled in over much of the rest of the first half, but never could trim its deficit to less than 11, and was down 53-33 at the break.
“We did talk about that at halftime. … I’m surprised you couldn’t hear me talking about it,” McGraw said with a coy smile of the Cavaliers’ 15 offensive rebounds and 15 second-chance points by the intermission.
Virginia had just five more offensive boards and four more second-chance points after that.
The Irish outscored the Cavaliers 30-14 in the third quarter to put the game away at 83-47. Notre Dame prevailed by at least 20 points for the sixth straight outing — an all-time first for the program in conference play. All of those wins have come by at least 23, and three of them over ranked opponents.
“We’ve really been competing in practices, having hard practices and just really focusing on our defense,” Young said. “Whenever we play defense, I think we’re the best team in the country. We’re able to go in transition, and when we’re in transition, that’s honestly our best game.”
With her second triple-double of the season, Young joined Skylar Diggins as the only Irish players with two in a career. Diggins notched one as a junior and one as a senior.
Besides being the eighth ND triple-double overall, Young’s was just the second to come off the bench, the other occurring when Mabrey had 18 points, 12 steals and 10 assists as a freshman against Valparaiso.
“Jackie wanted to steal the thunder today,” McGraw kidded of the guard who was 9-of-13 from the field, including 3-of-4 on treys. “She came up with a triple-double, just a great game off the bench, so willingly gave her spot to Butler so she could start, and then came in and had her best game of the season.”
• Notre Dame’s eighth straight regular-season conference title extended the nation’s second-best active streak. No. 1 Baylor has won nine straight Big 12 crowns.
• ND’s fifth home sellout of the season marked the program’s most since five in 2013-14. The record is 11 in 2012-13.
• As one of the top four seeds, Notre Dame received a double bye for the ACC Tourney in Greensboro, N.C. The Irish play a 2 p.m. quarterfinal on Friday, and if the results follow the seedings, ND would end up facing both teams it lost to during the regular season — North Carolina and Miami — then the team it shared the regular-season title with in Louisville.
Notre Dame’s semifinal would be at noon Saturday. The championship is at noon Sunday.
VIRGINIA (11-18): Jones 1-8 0-0 2, Jablonowski 8-12 1-2 17, Tinsley 2-6 0-0 5, Toussaint 2-11 1-2 7, Willoughby 6-20 6-6 19, Payne 1-1 0-0 2, Caldwell 3-11 2-2 8, Martinsen 2-8 0-0 6, Totals 25-77 10-12 66.
NOTRE DAME (27-3): Butler 0-2 0-0 0, Shepard 7-11 5-5 19, Turner 8-9 5-6 21, Mabrey 4-11 1-1 12, Ogunbowale 8-14 2-2 24, Cosgrove 0-4 0-0 0, Patterson 0-1 0-0 0, Vaughn 0-1 0-0 0, Benz 1-2 0-0 2, Prohaska 1-1 0-0 3, Young 9-13 1-1 22, Totals 38-69 14-15 103.
Virginia 16 17 14 19 —66
Notre Dame 29 24 30 20 —103
3-Point Goals—Virginia 6-25 (Tinsley 1-3, Toussaint 2-8, Willoughby 1-4, Caldwell 0-3, Martinsen 2-7), Notre Dame 13-27 (Butler 0-2, Shepard 0-1, Mabrey 3-8, Ogunbowale 6-8, Cosgrove 0-2, Benz 0-1, Prohaska 1-1, Young 3-4). Assists—Virginia 10 (Caldwell 3), Notre Dame 28 (Young 11). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—Virginia 37 (Jablonowski 10), Notre Dame 47 (Young 10). Total Fouls—Virginia 13, Notre Dame 8. Technical Fouls—None.A—9,149.