Nov. 11, 2016
By Leigh Torbin
No. 1/2 Notre Dame hoped to get a fast start to its 2016-17 season on opening night against Central Michigan. Thanks to a fast start to the game, scoring each of the contest’s first 15 points, the Irish got the fast start they hoped for, commencing their year with a 107-47 win over the Chippewas before a thrilled 8,454 fans at Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center.
Ogunbowale Can Ball
The highlight of the postgame Notre Dame press conference was a question and not an answer. Ken Kilmek of the South Bend Tribune asked Arike Ogunbowale plain-faced, “Arike, you missed one shot tonight. Why?”
After a burst of laughter and a comment that she thought she rushed it, the warm glow of a nearly-perfect performance set in. Ogunbowale connected on 12-of-13 from the floor and all five of her 3-point attempts en route to a career-high 30 points. Ogunbowale also had two steals, two assists and three rebounds. She certainly made a believer out of veteran Central Michigan head coach Sue Guevara.
“She’s really worked on that three-ball,” Guevara said. “We know that’s a Mack truck that can get to the basket and pull up. But, boy, hitting that three…”
In scoring 107 points on Friday night, the Irish tied the most points scored in a season opener since beating Liberty 113-35 on Nov. 24, 1989, on a neutral floor in Orlando, Florida. The Irish also scored 107 points on Nov. 26, 2002, opening that season with a 107-65 win over Cleveland State. The 60-point margin of victory also makes tonight the most lopsided season-opening game since that 78-point win over the Lady Flames in 1989.
Winning Streaks Live On
Notre Dame’s extended stretches of season-opening success will carry on another year. Tonight’s victory is the team’s 22nd in a row in a home opener, extending back to a 1994 loss to No. 13 Purdue and its 22nd in a row in a season opener, stretching back to a 1994 road loss at No. 25 Seton Hall. The Irish have now won 17 games in a row when its home opener is also its season opener, extending back to a 1991 loss to No. 3 Penn State.
Coach McGraw Says:
On what sparked the 15-0 run to open the game: “I think we had a mindset of trying to go hard defensively. I think it’s Lindsay (Allen) setting the tone. When we came out, there was a definite business-like attitude to start the game.”
Johnson Makes First Start
Junior Mychal Johnson made her first career start tonight and gave the Irish backcourt a nice lift. She scored seven points, matched her career high with four steals, had four assists against no turnovers, and blocked one shot.
The blocked shot proved to be the final exclamation point of the win and one of the night’s highlights for the Irish. With 17.0 seconds to play, she never stopped hustling and extended from the top of the key to swat a 3-point try by Gabrielle Bird out of bounds. The energized Irish bench jumped up and erupted with joy for Johnson’s defensive effort, coming on the heels of a tough preseason where she battled hard through several minor injuries.
Call Me Mabrey
Johnson started tonight in place of Marina Mabrey but that did not keep the sophomore forward from New Jersey from making a grand entrance. Checking into the game with 6:28 left in the first quarter, the team’s first sub off of the bench, Mabrey wasted no time lighting up the scoreboard, pouring in eight points in her first 1:34 of action. Mabrey hit a three-pointer, a pair of free throws and then converted an old-fashioned three-point play. She finished the game with 17 points and five assists.
After improving to 11-0 all-time at home in Preseason WNIT action, the Irish advance to the event’s quarterfinal round. Notre Dame will play host to Fordham at 7 p.m. on Monday night. The game will be web-streamed via ACC Network Extra. Fordham advanced to this match-up by defeating Furman, 60-47, tonight in the Bronx, New York.
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.