Notre Dame finally puts it all together to knock off Miami

Anthony Anderson I Tribune Correspondent
ND Insider


In the face of a new season high for single-week adversity, Notre Dame popped adversity right in the face.

Miami happened to be the team in the way of the most complete, spot-on swing the Irish have taken at anybody this women’s basketball season, and the Hurricanes fell with a thud, 76-53 Sunday afternoon at Purcell Pavilion.

“It’s amazing,” freshman Sam Brunelle said of what she was feeling after pouring in 20 of her game-high 25 points during ND’s overwhelming second half. “We’ve worked so hard. We are a team that has so much potential and capability to do this any game, and to finally actually do it, it feels amazing. I’m really proud of everybody.”

Brunelle, who “looked like an All-American in the second half,” according to coach Muffet McGraw, finished 11-of-18 from the field with three triples.

Destinee Walker added 21 points and made 4-of-5 outside the arc as Notre Dame snapped its program-record five-game home losing streak and its overall four-game skid.

“I think it all came down to execution,” Walker said. “We ran our plays like we’re supposed to, listened to Coach, and we got better results.”

Walker wasn’t even a given to play a day earlier after injuring her ankle Thursday at Duke — and that wasn’t even close to the most compelling new adversity the Irish faced over these last few days.

Rather, it was learning that freshman Anaya Peoples, averaging 12.6 points and a team-best 8.1 rebounds, is out for the season with a torn labrum in her right shoulder.

Yet, Notre Dame responded with a win that its coach described as the club’s best of 2019-20.

“We’ve never seen this,” McGraw said. “We’ve never seen what we can be. We’ve seen glimpses, very small. Even in games early in the season, we didn’t really play well — even if we were able to win — so I think this is finally the game where we can feel good about the way we played and the way we executed, the way we defended. Really, the way we did everything.

“I think this is the game,” McGraw continued, “that we can point to and say, ‘This is what we can be,’ and now it’s up to us to see if we can maintain that every game.”

The Irish (7-12, 2-5 Atlantic Coast Conference) led just 28-27 at halftime, but after the Hurricanes (10-8, 2-5) knotted the count 32-32 two minutes into the third quarter, ND set sail on a 20-0, seven-minute spree from which Miami never recovered.

Ironically, every bit of that 20-0 occurred while center Mikki Vaughn was on the bench with her third foul, even though Vaughn was also a force while in the game with 16 points, 7-of-8 shooting from the field and a team-high eight rebounds in 24 minutes.

Former walk-on Katie Cole played throughout the run. Her numbers were pedestrian. Her impact wasn’t.

“Cole gives us energy and she’s a really good defender on the wing,” McGraw said. “She’s fighting, she’s in there for rebounds, she got that big steal for a layup (to put ND up 38-32). I talked to her about with Anaya being out, we’re going to need somebody off the bench and we were counting on her.”

Everybody who played major minutes for the Irish — that being all of six individuals — proved count-on worthy.

Katlyn Gilbert scored 12 points, distributed seven assists against one turnover and made a pair of steals, while point guard Marta Sniezek had eight assists against three turnovers and a season-high seven boards to go with another fearless display defensively.

“Marta did a fantastic job getting us into our sets, and I think we also all in huddles listened to Coach and what she was telling us to run, and we all bought into that,” Brunelle said. “I think when you get a team that the five players on the floor all buy into what we’re trying to do, then you get pretty offense like that.”

It was some of ND’s prettiest, with the way Walker used ball screens, the way high-low mismatches were utilized in the second half and and the way pick and rolls were explored each being among the items to McGraw’s liking.

The Irish hit 50% from the field overall, their second-best mark of the season.

Their 7-of-10 from long distance, all from Walker and Brunelle, matched a season best for made 3s and easily produced a season best in percentage.

That 20-0 run was a season best, too, as was the team’s assist/turnover ratio of 23/16. Those 23 assists were a season best by four.

Notre Dame’s plus-nine rebounding count, 42-33, matched a season best.

The 24-7 scoring differential in the third period was a season best for any quarter, and 48-26 the best of any second half.

The victory margin of 23 was just one shy of the standard, an 84-60 home-opening win over a lowly Loyola of Maryland team (now 4-13 against a mostly second-division schedule).

Miami’s not nearly so lowly, though it’s notable that the Canes were again without ACC preseason player of the year Beatrice Mompremier.

The 6-foot-4 center missed her fifth straight game with a foot injury, and Miami dropped to 1-4 in those outings, albeit mostly against a rigorous stretch and with a 77-62 win over Syracuse mixed in.

Mykea Gray scored 16 points for the Canes, but just two in the second half after being, per McGraw, a point of discussion during the break. Fellow junior guard Kelsey Marshall netted 10.

While ND’s purring offense ruled the day, the defense wasn’t far behind.

“I thought it was great,” McGraw said. “We got kind of physically handled a little bit inside. They were outjumping us, they were pushing us around. I felt we could’ve held our ground a little bit more, so that was probably the one thing that we can do better.”

The Irish are off until visiting Virginia (7-11, 2-5) next Sunday.

MIAMI (10-8): Harden 3-14 1-1 7, Jackson 0-0 0-0 0, Banks 3-5 0-0 6, Gray 6-13 2-2 16, Marshall 4-10 0-0 10, Huston 1-5 0-0 2, Roby 2-3 0-0 4, Chang 0-1 0-0 0, Johnson Sidi Baba 2-5 0-0 4, Mason 1-5 2-2 4, Salgues 0-5 0-0 0, Totals 22-66 5-5 53

NOTRE DAME (7-12): Brunelle 11-18 0-0 25, Vaughn 7-8 2-2 16, Gilbert 5-14 2-3 12, Sniezek 0-1 0-0 0, Walker 6-11 5-6 21, Cosgrove 0-2 0-0 0, Keyes 0-0 0-0 0, Benz 0-0 0-0 0, Cole 1-4 0-0 2, Murdock 0-0 0-0 0, Murdock 0-2 0-0 0, Totals 30-60 9-11 76

Miami 12 15 7 19 — 53

Notre Dame 16 12 24 24 — 76

3-Point Goals_Miami 4-23 (Harden 0-2, Banks 0-1, Gray 2-5, Marshall 2-5, Johnson Sidi Baba 0-3, Mason 0-2, Salgues 0-5), Notre Dame 7-10 (Brunelle 3-5, Walker 4-5). Assists_Miami 10 (Marshall 3), Notre Dame 23 (Sniezek 8). Fouled Out_None. Rebounds_Miami 33 (Harden 4-8), Notre Dame 42 (Vaughn 4-8). Total Fouls_Miami 16, Notre Dame 10. Technical Fouls_None. A_8,059.

NDvsMiami01192020_017.JPGNotre Dame’s Destinee Walker (24) celebrates after Sunday’s 76-53 win against Miami (FL) at Purcell Pavilion.
Notre Dame’s head coach Muffet McGraw, center, celebrates her team’s win over Miami Sunday at Purcell Pavilion.
Notre Dame’s Sam Brunelle snags a rebound during the second half of Sunday’s game against Miami at Purcell Pavilion. Brunelle led the Irish with 25 points.
Notre Dame’s Katlyn Gilbert (10), center, reacts after scoring and being fouled on the shot during Sunday’s game against Miami at Purcell Pavilion.