Nov. 14, 2016
By Leigh Torbin
There have been more elegant games played at Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center, but a win is a win and the No. 1/2 Notre Dame women’s basketball team claimed a 67-36 victory over Fordham on Monday night, advancing to the semifinals of the Preseason WNIT.
Lindsay Allen and Arike Ogunbowale each scored 13 to pace the Irish (2-0) while Kathryn Westbeld grabbed 11 rebounds to go with her six points. The Rams (1-1) did not see any players hit double figures in scoring although G’mrice Davis scored nine points while collecting 15 rebounds.
“It’s a great thing to learn about this team that we can win ugly,” Karen and Kevin Keyes Family Head Women’s Basketball Coach Muffet McGraw said afterwards. “We missed a lot of shots. We were frustrated early and we kept our composure – mostly thanks to Lindsay. She’s so steady. She didn’t let anybody fade a little bit after missing some shots. I was really pleased we were able to win a defensive battle.”
Koko Makes it Go
Fordham hung around for a while and cut the Notre Dame lead to just eight points at 36-28 with 3:06 left in the third quarter. Kristina Nelson, nicknamed “Koko,” took charge after that. Nelson snared the rebound of a miss by Ogunbowale on Notre Dame’s next possession, moved deftly around her defender in the paint, and laid it in. At the other end, Fordham’s Asnate Fomina missed a 3-pointer and Nelson grabbed the rebound and was fouled – making one free throw.
Fordham’s Danielle Burns missed a three back at the other end with Westbeld collecting this rebound. Marina Mabrey rushed the ball up the court before missing a jumper but Nelson was there for the rebound and put-back while being fouled. Nelson completed the old fashioned three-point play, giving the Irish a key six-point run over 45 frantic seconds in which she scored all six points.
The play by Nelson that made McGraw jump to her feet applauding though does not appear on the stat sheet. With 3:35 left in the contest, the Rams’ Kate Kreslina drove into the lane and ran into a stout Nelson who drew a charging call and turnover with the offensive foul. Brianna Turner would score on the ensuing possession as the Irish closed the game on a 9-0 run over the final 4:49.
“When Koko made that mini run for us and got those hustle plays, that kind of revved us up a little bit,” Allen said. “It gave us that energy that we needed. I thought that we were lethargic at times and we needed to get some hustle plays. Koko started that out for us and we continued it on from there.”
Nelson scored nine points in the game – one off of her career-high – and grabbed seven rebounds. She also had an assist, a blocked shot and a steal.
Defense Gets It Done
While the Irish struggled offensively at times, the defense held the fort down at the other end. Notre Dame yielded just 36 points on the night, its best defensive showing since beating Clemson, 74-36, on Jan. 24, 2015, at Littlejohn Coliseum. The Rams shot just 23.1% from the floor tonight and connected on only two of their 19 3-point shots (10.5%). The Irish defense forced 18 turnovers against just seven assists.
“I thought we communicated well,” McGraw said of what led to this showing. “I thought we did a good job talking on the screens. We did a lot of switching and I thought we did a really good job of guarding them well on the switching. I thought the posts did a good job of handling the guards and the guards did a good job of fronting the posts. So I was really pleased with that.”
Coach McGraw Says
“This time of year we’re going to see all kinds of new thinks, all kinds of new ways to guard us. It seems like being physical is the thing that people are choosing right now. (Brianna Turner) is really getting beat up inside and all the posts are. The guards got beat up a little bit in the last game. People are trying to really bother us with the physical play and so we’ve got to learn how to adjust to that.”
The Irish have now advanced to the Preseason WNIT semifinals and will face Green Bay at 7 p.m. on Thursday night at Purcell Pavilion. The Phoenix are 2-0 on the young season following Preseason WNIT wins over Elon and Little Rock, both in Green Bay.
Leigh Torbin, athletics communications associate director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 2013 and coordinates all media efforts for Notre Dame’s women’s basketball and men’s golf teams. A native of Framingham, Massachusetts, Torbin graduated from the University of Massachusetts in 1998 with a bachelor’s degree in sports management. He has previously worked full-time on the athletic communications staffs at Vanderbilt, Florida, Connecticut and UCF.