Westbeld leads No. 4 Notre Dame women past Va Tech 74-50
BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) Sometimes in college basketball, inexperienced teams have letdowns on the road against inferior opponents.
Notre Dame had no such trouble against Virginia Tech.
Kathryn Westbeld scored a career-high 17 points in leading the fourth-ranked Fighting Irish to a 74-50 victory over the Hokies on Thursday night.
The freshman was averaging 8.6 points per game before scoring 11 in the first half as Notre Dame (20-2, 7-1 ACC) jumped out to a 43-17 lead.
The Fighting Irish, tied with Florida State and Louisville atop the ACC standings, won their sixth straight game and beat the Hokies for the third consecutive time.
”I thought it was important for us to take control early,” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. ”We’re a young team, and on the road sometimes, we really don’t know what we’re going to get. I was really happy at halftime. We were able to play a pretty good half.”
Westbeld was 8 of 14 from the floor and Notre Dame shot 50 percent (28 of 56). She went 5 of 6 in the first half, as the Fighting Irish led by as many as 28 points.
”I’ve just been trying to get better every game,” Westbeld said. ”I’ve been looking to score more. That’s the biggest thing I’ve been working on. I came out ready and looking to score. My teammates found me really well, especially in their zone. I happened to be open a lot on the block.”
She got help from Jewell Loyd, who was leading the ACC in scoring at 21.6 points per game. She added 16 points for the Fighting Irish, including 14 in the first half. Loyd went 5 of 9 from the field, making both 3-point attempts, and scored in double figures for the 21st time this season.
Notre Dame – which has no seniors in its starting lineup – trailed by a basket early in the game but used a 21-3 run to grab the lead and never trailed again. Loyd scored 10 points during the spurt.
The Fighting Irish statistically dominated the first 20 minutes en route to a 26-point halftime lead. They shot 57.1 percent (16 of 28) in the first half, including 55.6 percent from beyond the 3-point arc (5 of 9). They also outrebounded the Hokies 22-10.
”Our approach in the first half was not good,” Virginia Tech coach Dennis Wolff said. ”I thought we played really tentative and were back on our heels, and that led to a lot of easy baskets that took us out of it. Now, in the second half, at least we competed a lot better. The whole feel was a lot better, and I was happy for that. We just played back on our heels in the first half.”
Hannah Young led Virginia Tech (10-11, 1-7), which outscored Notre Dame 33-31 in the second half, with 13 points. Rachel Camp, the Hokies’ leading scorer at 15 points per game coming in, had just six and fouled out with 8:21 remaining.
Virginia Tech shot only 35.8 percent from the floor (19 of 53) in losing for the seventh time in eight games.
Notre Dame: The Irish have been ranked in the top 10 of The Associated Press poll for 78 straight weeks and have appeared in the AP poll 148 consecutive weeks. … Notre Dame was second in the nation in field-goal percentage (50.1) and fourth in scoring offense (85.3 ppg) coming into the game. … Notre Dame has won 33 of its past 34 road games. … The Fighting Irish’s 43 points were the most Virginia Tech has allowed in a first half this season.
Virginia Tech: Hokies guard Vanessa Panousis was the second-leading scorer on the team at 14.1 points per game coming in, but had just eight against the Irish. … Despite leading the Hokies in scoring, Camp hasn’t reached double figures in the past four games.
Notre Dame returns home to play Wake Forest on Sunday.
Virginia Tech visits Georgia Tech on Sunday.