Nov. 13, 2016
By Leigh Torbin
One advantage of the Preseason WNIT format is, not unlike the NCAA Championship, the ability to face teams on a couple of days notice without them being on the original schedule. Shortly after the No. 1/2 Notre Dame women’s basketball team dropped Central Michigan, 107-47, on Friday night, the team’s focus shifted from Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center to historic Rose Hill Gym in the Bronx, New York.
The final score trickled in that Fordham had defeated Furman, 60-47, and preparations began for the Irish to play host to the Rams in the Preseason WNIT quarterfinals at 7 p.m. on Monday night. The Irish coaching staff met after the game on Friday night, finalized a game plan on Saturday and, Sunday afternoon, the team practiced for the Rams’ visit.
Here are a few things to think about heading into the game.
About the Rams
Picked to finish sixth in the Atlantic 10 this season after finishing at 14-17 in 2015-16, Fordham is 1-0 this year after its Friday night win over Furman. Danielle Burns and Lauren Holden tied for the Fordham lead with 12 points against the Paladins.
The Rams are led by head coach Stephanie Gaitley who shares a significant tie with Notre Dame’s Karen and Kevin Keyes Family Head Women’s Basketball Coach Muffet McGraw — both have spent time at St. Joseph’s. McGraw played for the Hawks from 1973-77 and served as an assistant coach on Mainline from 1980-82. Gaitley was the head coach at St. Joseph’s from 1991-2001 after serving as an assistant coach there from 1983-85.
The series history is a short one. The only previous meeting with Fordham saw an 89-44 Irish victory on Nov. 27, 2000, at the Joyce Center. The Irish improved to 5-0 en route to their first national championship behind 17 points from Alicia Ratay and a strong showing by point guard Niele Ivey with 14 points and eight assists. Meghan Leahy had a double-double with 16 points and 14 rebounds while Amanda Barksdale blocked six shots in the victory.
Arike Makes History
The first round of the Preseason WNIT proved to be a banner night for Arike Ogunbowale who obliterated her previous career high of 21 by scoring 30 points in Notre Dame’s win over Central Michigan.
Ogunbowale hit all five of her 3-point attempts on the night, a feat that had not been seen for the Irish in 26 years. Ogunbowale provided just the third game in Irish lore where a player took at least five 3-pointers and did not miss one. Alicia Ratay sank all seven of her 3-point shots at Rutgers on Feb. 19, 2000, while Sheila McMillen went a perfect five-for-five behind the arc against UConn on Dec. 8, 1998.
Her 12-of-13 from the floor narrowly missed becoming a school record for field goal percentage. Karen Robinson set that mark by going 12-for-12 at St. Louis on Jan. 14, 1989.
It also marked the first time a Notre Dame player had hit the 30-point mark in a game since Jewell Loyd tallied 31 at Georgia Tech on Feb. 19, 2015.
A pair of players made their collegiate debuts for Notre Dame on Friday night. Sophomore Ali Patberg, who missed all of 2015-16 with a knee injury, played for 14 minutes and provided three assists (with no turnovers) and three rebounds. Freshmen Erin Boley scored eight points in 25 minutes of action, sinking a pair of three-pointers and both of her free throws. Boley also contributed three assists and two rebounds to the Irish victory.
Jackie Young, the 2016 Indiana Miss Basketball and Naismith National High School Player of the Year, continues to be bothered by a thumb injury suffered in the exhibition win over Roberts Wesleyan and is not expected to play on Monday.
Coach McGraw Says
On Brianna Turner’s 12-point performance against Central Michigan: “Teams come in and try and take on person away and find that we have a lot of weapons. (Central Michigan) was incredibly physical and our guards were able to get loose and play really well. Inside was a physical battle. I think (Kristina Nelson) did a really good job even if she didn’t shoot it quite as well. I don’t think we got the ball to Bri as much as I wanted to. She only played 19 minutes but I’d like to get her the ball a little bit more.”
How to Watch/Listen
The first official steps towards creation of an ACC Network began this summer in conjunction with ESPN. All non-televised home games which used to be streamed live online through WatchND (including Monday night’s) will now be streamed under the banner of ACC Network Extra. Games are available online at WatchESPN.com (formerly branded as ESPN3) or through the WatchESPN app. Streams are free to all ESPN subscribers. Monday night’s game will be called by Conor Clingen, with color commentary by former Irish men’s basketball player A.J. Burgett.
Information on how to access WatchESPN is available here.
For those familiar with the WatchESPN, the direct link to the webcast of Monday night’s game is available here.
Bob Nagle returns for his 12th season as the radio voice of the Irish. Notre Dame’s local home on the radio is Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) while the audio is also available globally via WatchND.tv and the WatchND app.
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.