Notre Dame women's basketball has fun avenging loss to Boston College

Anthony Anderson | Tribune Correspondent
ND Insider

SOUTH BEND — Dara Mabrey said she didn’t realize she’d missed merely one shot of any kind on her way to 21 points, but it might’ve been reasonable of her to suspect as much based on how she was feeling.

“I was just having a lot of fun today,” the Notre Dame junior guard said as she looked up from a stat sheet and exchanged her game face for a smile upon having her shooting numbers pointed out to her.

She wasn’t the only one having fun, either.

All the Irish appeared to be having a blast as they avenged their late-meltdown loss at Boston College just 11 days earlier by using a powerful finish to knock off the Eagles 83-73 in women’s college basketball Sunday afternoon at Purcell Pavilion.

With the victory, Notre Dame (7-5, 5-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) is all of a sudden winning at a clip — four times in five games — that the program hasn’t seen since the end of the 2018-19 national runner-up season.

Last winter’s 13-18 club never took four of five.

Mabrey tallied her 21 points on 7-of-8 from the field, including 3-of-4 from long distance, and 4-of-4 at the line. She also dealt five assists and made three steals.

Destinee Walker added 20 points, including 14 in a potent fourth quarter that saw the Irish outscore BC 24-15 over the final 8:06 after the visitors narrowed the gap to 59-58.

Notre Dame won in large part by taking resoundingly better care of the ball down the stretch against the Eagles (5-7, 1-7) this time.

The Irish committed just three turnovers over the entire fourth quarter, after coughing up six over the final 2:41 less than two weeks ago, when BC outscored ND 16-1 in the last 2:35 for a 64-61 win.

“We worked on a lot of different types of press breaks,” Notre Dame coach Niele Ivey said. “On the side. Full court. I thought (the players) did a great job of executing some things that we put in this week.”

The Irish were coming off a 79-72 win over Wake Forest in which they were also tested by pressure. They improved in that one over the initial Boston College encounter, then improved some more Sunday.

“I think breaking any press, the key is just staying poised,” Mabrey said. “We knew exactly what we needed to do, we executed, and even when we felt like we were on our toes a little bit, which is normal with a team like BC that presses a lot, I was really proud of us. I thought we stayed calm, cool and collected the whole time, and got what we wanted out of it.”

While Mabrey remained ND’s point guard by definition, particularly once the team was in the forecourt, the actual press-breaking chores were liberally shared.

“I really was focused this week on getting Destinee to break the press more, Maddy (Westbeld) to break the press more and Anaya (Peoples) as well,” Ivey said. “I liked having Dara to stretch the press and be open from the wings long, so that’s something we worked on. We worked on our ball-handlers doing a better job reading the traps and trying to beat the press one-on-one.”

Once the press was beat, the Irish smoothly shifted into attack mode, too.

“They did a really good job just looking up and seeing the open person,” Ivey said of her players’ conversion rate on a day they shot 61% from the field to the visitors’ 41%.

While the Irish still finished with 19 turnovers, that was down from 23 at BC, and it was countered by the alertly dishing hosts notching 21 assists, compared to 13 at BC.

In addition to Mabrey and the likewise efficient Walker, who made 8-of-13 from the field and 3-of-3 at the line, Notre Dame got stout statistical lines from a few other players.

Those included Westbeld netting 13 points, grabbing seven rebounds and handing out six assists, Vaughn extending her career-best string of double-digit scoring games to four with 10 points and four blocks, and Peoples adding game highs of 11 rebounds and four steals to nine points and five assists.

The Irish needed much of what they got to overcome the blistering long-range shooting of Marnelle Garraud and Makayla Dickens for the Eagles. Those two scored 18 points apiece, with Garraud draining 6-of-8 outside the arc and Dickens hitting 4-of-6 to accompany her seven assists and three steals.

Taylor Soule added 15 points, nine boards and five assists.

“I thought we left them open a lot,” Ivey said after BC made 13-of-24 treys, “so that’s an area we can clean up, but I wanted to focus on just getting better at our 2-3 zone, trying to protect my bigs from getting into foul trouble. We had to mix it up a little bit when they got hot, but this is a team where we have to be prepared for all types of in-game adjustments, and they’re doing a really good job with that.”

The Irish scored 48 paint points to 26 for the Eagles, an area that Ivey said was emphasized, but gave up 15 second-chance points while getting eight of their own.

“We’ve talked about gang rebounding,” Ivey said. “We need everybody to get in there and rebound. That’s something we really have to work on and improve.”

Notre Dame moved to 6-2 at Purcell, compared to 1-3 away, but this was also potentially the team’s last home appearance for more than a month.

The next five games, beginning Thursday at Virginia Tech, are on the road if the present schedule holds. That lengthy streak is formed in part by the announcement Friday that a previously postponed contest at No. 24 Syracuse has been reset for Jan. 31.

The five-stop gauntlet is slated to be capped by trips to No. 2 Louisville on Feb. 7 and No. 3 North Carolina State on Feb. 15.

The next scheduled home game is not until Feb. 18 against Syracuse, though it remains possible that a recently postponed Purcell matchup against Pittsburgh could still be made up before then.

BOSTON COLLEGE (5-7): Ford 0-0 0-0 0, Soule 7-19 1-4 15, Dickens 7-15 0-2 18, Garraud 6-8 0-0 18, Swartz 2-12 1-2 7, Batts 2-3 2-2 6, VanTimmeren 3-7 0-0 6, Ivey 1-4 0-0 3, Lacey 0-0 0-0 0, Team 0-0 0-0 0, Totals 28-68 4-10 73

NOTRE DAME (7-5): Westbeld 6-12 0-0 13, Vaughn 5-8 0-0 10, Mabrey 7-8 4-4 21, Peoples 4-10 1-2 9, Prohaska 1-1 0-0 2, Brunelle 4-5 0-0 8, Walker 8-13 3-3 20, Hayes 0-0 0-0 0, Team 0-0 0-0 0, Totals 35-57 8-9 83

Boston College 18 15 20 20 — 73

Notre Dame 14 27 14 28 — 83

3-Point Goals_Boston College 13-24 (Dickens 4-6, Garraud 6-8, Swartz 2-7, VanTimmeren 0-1, Ivey 1-2), Notre Dame 5-10 (Westbeld 1-2, Mabrey 3-4, Brunelle 0-1, Walker 1-3). Assists_Boston College 21 (Dickens 7), Notre Dame 21 (Westbeld 6). Fouled Out_None. Rebounds_Boston College 34 (Soule 7-9), Notre Dame 32 (Peoples 4-11). Total Fouls_Boston College 8, Notre Dame 13. Technical Fouls_None. A_110.

Notre Dame’s Destinee Walker goes up for a shot as Boston College’s Jaelyn Batts defends during their game Sunday at Purcell Pavilion in South Bend.
Notre Dame’s Dara Mabrey goes up for a shot as Boston College players defend Sunday at Purcell Pavilion in South Bend.
Notre Dame’s Dara Mabrey and Maddy Westbeld react to a made shot and a foul to attempt the three point play against Boston College Sunday at Purcell Pavilion in South Bend.