March 4, 2016
GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP)– Second-ranked Notre Dame started its third Atlantic Coast Conference tournament with a dominating show of balance and depth.
Freshmen Marina Mabrey and Arike Ogunbowale each scored 14 points in the Fighting Irish’s 83-54 win against Duke in Friday’s quarterfinals. Five players reached double figures while giving plenty of rest to the starters.
”I think everybody knows everybody’s strengths, everybody knows what their role is, and they play it very well,” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. ”They don’t try to do too much, they do exactly what they’re supposed to do. So when they get the ball, everybody knows what’s going to happen next, and I think that’s important.”
The top-seeded Fighting Irish (29-1) shook off a slow start to build a double-digit lead by midway through the second quarter en route to an easy win. Notre Dame led by 15 at halftime and by 31 from there, continuing its three-year dominance of the league since joining the ACC in 2013-14.
Notre Dame improved to 55-1 against ACC opponents during that time, including 7-0 in the league tournament. The Fighting Irish advanced to play No. 21 Miami in Saturday’s semifinals.
Azura Stevens scored 19 points to lead the eighth-seeded Blue Devils (20-12), who shot just 32 percent. They were without No. 2 scorer Rebecca Greenwell, who missed her second tournament straight game with a back injury. That left Stevens as one of two double-figure scorers for Duke compared to the Fighting Irish’s overwhelming balance, which had nine players score by halftime.
”It’s a tough one,” Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said. ”I’m very proud of this team, but we know we could have played better. It’s not the feeling that we want to have.”
Notre Dame blew the game open with a 16-2 run, fittingly with five different players scoring, to take a 35-15 lead with 3:41 left before halftime. Then after Duke closed within 13 early in the third quarter, Notre Dame ran off a 12-0 burst to make it 51-26 with 5:38 left.
Notre Dame shot 47 percent and scored 19 points off turnovers while committing just seven turnovers to begin its stay in Greensboro.
”It’s a really important stepping-stone going into the NCAA Tournament,” senior Hannah Huffman said. ”If you have a good tournament here, it helps really build us up and gives up some really solid momentum going into the (NCAAs).”
Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish took a 44-32 rebounding advantage and scored 20 second-chance points. … Notre Dame made 7-of-19 3-pointers. … The Irish blocked seven shots.
Notre Dame: Will face No. 21 Miami in Saturday’s semifinals.