SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) Coach Muffet McGraw thought No. 5 Notre Dame would benefit from a week off from the Atlantic Coast Conference grind. What she didn’t figure on was the break lasting another half against scrappy Georgia Tech.
Arike Ogunbowale overcame a first-half scoreless drought of nearly 17 minutes to finish with 27 points, leading the Irish to an 85-69 victory on Sunday.
”I thought (the layoff) would give us a mental break, but we weren’t as sharp as we needed to be in the first half,” McGraw said.
Article continues below ...
The Irish (23-2, 11-1 ACC) got past 15 turnovers and poor foul shooting in the first 20 minutes for their eighth straight victory.
Jackie Young scored 22 points on 10-of-13 shooting, Jessica Shepard had her eighth double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds and Kathryn Westbeld added 10 points.
The Irish hit 14 of 17 free throws after a 1-for-6 performance in the first half and forced Georgia Tech into 23 turnovers and an equal number of personal fouls.
”We had a plan, but they had to execute,” McGraw said. ”A lot of the turnovers were good ideas that just went awry. We also buckled down defensively. (But) the ability to get the ball in Arike’s hands and into Jackie’s hands when we drive the ball was what really helped us in the second half.”
Kaylan Pugh had 13 points, Francesca Pan 12 and Chanin Scott and Kierra Fletcher scored 10 each for the Yellow Jackets (15-11, 4-9 ACC), who were tied 39-all at halftime.
”I don’t think they’re used to seeing that kind of full-court pressure,” Georgia Tech coach MaChelle Joseph said. ”But they did a great job with the adjustments in getting the ball into Arike’s hands. She made plays, which is why she’s one of the best players in the country.”
Ogunbowale saluted Georgia Tech and her teammates.
”They played good defense,” said Ogunbowale, who scored Notre Dame’s first eight points and then no more in the first half. ”My teammates were open and they did what they had to do.”
A reverse, underhanded layup by Westbeld just before the buzzer gave the Irish momentum going to the locker room.
”That was a huge momentum shift,” McGraw said of the basket that came off one of seven assists by Young, who also had seven rebounds and five steals.
Notre Dame, which led 48-18 at halftime in Atlanta on way to a 77-54 victory over the Yellow Jackets a month ago, started this second half on a 6-0 run. Ogunbowale made two free throws and Shepard and Young had baskets, prompting Joseph to call the first of two timeouts in the quarter.
Marina Mabrey, who also had seven assists, then stripped Scott of the ball, ran after the turnover and fed a streaking Young for a 51-43 lead with 6:15 left in the third quarter. An 8-0 burst later in the quarter helped the Irish take a 64-54 lead. Notre Dame then scored 13 straight points in the fourth quarter.
Georgia Tech: Joseph had used 10 players halfway through the first quarter and employed full-court pressure to tire injury-plagued Notre Dame, which has only seven scholarship players. The strategy worked, forcing an uncharacteristic 15 turnovers by Notre Dame, nine in the second quarter. The Yellow Jackets eventually opened a 39-35 lead on Scott’s 3-pointer.
Notre Dame: Ogunbowale didn’t score in the final 16:45 of the first half. McGraw’s halftime talk was a short one for Notre Dame, which returned to the court to shoot with more than five minutes remaining, a good four minutes ahead of Georgia Tech. The Irish shot 50 percent (33 of 66) from the field.