SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) Notre Dame guard Marina Mabrey missed her first two shots Sunday, but didn’t let it bother her. She knew to keep shooting, and hardly missed the rest of the way.
Mabrey knocked down 11 of her final 12 attempts from the field to finish with 25 points, leading No. 7 Notre Dame to its seventh straight win, 90-69 over Georgia Tech.
”The first two shots didn’t go in, but (Irish point guard) Lindsay (Allen) told me to keep shooting,” said Mabrey, who finished two points off her career high. ”And coach (Muffet McGraw) said to drive.”
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That attacking philosophy led to a lot of points in the paint for the Irish — 58 of their 90 came from close in. Brianna Turner added 21 points, nine rebounds and five blocked shots, and Arike Ogunbowale had 18 points and 10 boards for the Irish (23-3, 11-1 ACC) who swept the season series with the Yellow Jackets.
”Offensively, Marina and Bri played extremely well,” McGraw said. ”We did a lot of good things.”
Francesca Pan tied her career-high of four 3-pointers and scored 24 points to lead Georgia Tech (14-11, 3-9), which has lost seven of eight. Imani Tilford chipped in 15 points.
Reigning ACC player of the week Zaire O’Neil came in averaging more than 20 points over Tech’s last three games, including a career-high 28 last time out against North Carolina State. But O’Neil found the going much tougher down low against Turner and regular double teams, and finished with just nine points.
”She was a key focus of our defense,” McGraw said. ”I thought Bri did a really good defensively on her.”
O’Neil played almost none of the first quarter after picking up a foul in the first minute, but the Jackets still went up by five early on. That’s when the Irish went on a run, just like in their first matchup. It was a 23-2 spurt last month that put the Irish in control, and an 18-3 burst this time around that got their lead into double digits in the second quarter.
”When (O’Neil’s) not in the game the whole first (quarter) it really hurts us offensively,” said Georgia Tech coach McChelle Joseph. ”She’s the cog in our wheel, everything’s centered around her offensively. It’s really hard when we have to play people out of position.”
Tech cut the Irish advantage to five on a pair of Tilford free throws early in the second half, but Mabrey scored six during a 14-4 Notre Dame run that pushed it back to 15.
”Marina driving the ball tonight, Arike driving the ball… we were able to put the ball on the floor,” McGraw said.
After the Yellow Jackets got within single digits one more time early in the fourth quarter, Lindsay Allen responded with a three-point play and a 3-point field goal as Notre Dame scored nine straight to go up by 18 with six minutes left. Allen finished with 12 points.
Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets have yet to solve Notre Dame in eight tries and haven’t beaten a top-10 ranked team since toppling No. 8 North Carolina in 2011.
Notre Dame: The Irish still have three games before they end the regular season against Florida State, including a tough matchup coming at No. 20 Syracuse next Sunday, but they continue to keep pace with 11-1 Seminoles, and that meeting in South Bend is shaping up to be the ACC’s regular season title game.
Notre Dame was assessed an administrative technical foul at the start of the game after entering its starting lineup incorrectly. Katarina Vuckovic hit one of two free throws before the game’s opening tip… Back up Notre Dame guard Ali Patberg missed the game with the flu, which several players have battled recently… Both teams were decked out in pink for the annual Pink Zone game to raise funds for breast cancer research… The Irish also celebrated the 20th reunion of the program’s first Final Four team from 1997.
Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets travel to North Carolina on Thursday.
Notre Dame: The Irish play their next two on the road, beginning with a Thursday trip to Clemson.