Dec. 5, 2015
STORRS, Conn. (AP)– Freshman Marina Mabrey scored a career-best 23 to lead Notre Dame (7-1) in Saturday’s 91-81 loss to UConn.
This was the latest chapter in the top rivalry in women’s basketball. These two teams have played for the national championship or in the Final Four in the past five seasons, including last season’s title game.
”It’s Notre Dame, anytime we play them we always want to play our best,” said Breanna Stewart, who led UConn with 28 points. ”Even when we were coming out in warmups you could tell how excited the student section was, you could tell this would be a big game.”
UConn led 58-54 midway through the third quarter before Tuck started a 20-2 run over the next 7 minutes. She had eight points during the spurt.
The lead grew to 78-56 early in the fourth quarter before Notre Dame scored 13 of the next 15 points to close within 11 with 4:46 left. The Irish could get no closer than nine.
”I’m proud of the way we battled,” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. ”Marina was outstanding in the first half. I thought we lost the game in the third quarter. So many little things we can’t afford to make those kinds of mistakes. The margin of error for us with this team right now is very small. Twenty turnovers I thought that was the difference in the game.”
Without its two posts, UConn made a conscious effort to go inside. The Huskies’ first 10 points came in the paint as they jumped out to a 10-2 lead. They extended their lead to 10 on a spectacular tip-in by Stewart off a miss where she was fouled. The senior star converted the free throw to make it 20-10.
Then sisters Marina and Michaela Mabrey rallied the Irish. They scored 17 of the next 20 points for the Irish to get Notre Dame to 31-30. A layup with 5:15 left in the second quarter by Kristina Nelson gave the Irish their first lead of the game. The two teams traded baskets over the rest of the half as Madison Cable scored nine straight points for Notre Dame. UConn led 45-43 at the break.
Marina Mabrey finished the first half with 21 points to surpass her career best of 19. The Irish shot 47 percent from the field in the first half, including hitting 7 of 10 3-pointers.
”We got down 10-2 and then regrouped,” McGraw said. ”That was good, proud of the effort as it showed a lot of character, lot of perseverance.” TIP-INS:
Notre Dame: The Irish shot a blistering 65 percent (13 for 20) from behind the arc. … Irish coach Muffet McGraw celebrated her 60th birthday. Geno Auriemma gave her a small gift before the game. Notre Dame is 5-3 when playing on her birthday.
This was the 19th meeting between the schools since Jan. 16, 2010. UConn has won 12 of them, but the Irish won seven of eight in the series from 2011-2013. After taking a year off when the Irish left the Big East, the two teams played in last season’s Jimmy V Classic as well as the national championship game.
Notre Dame: vs No. 23 DePaul on Wednesday night.