Nov. 7, 2015
By Curt Rallo, special correspondent
NOTRE DAME, Ind. — It was not the start that the University of Notre Dame women’s basketball head coach Muffet McGraw wanted to see, two turnovers on the first two possessions.
But by the end of Notre Dame’s 101-52 rout of Wayne State in its exhibition game on Saturday, McGraw had a clear vision of what the Fighting Irish are capable of, and what it will take to get them there.
McGraw will get to measure her team’s improvement from the exhibition game on Sunday, Nov. 15, when the Fighting Irish open the 2015-16 campaign against Bucknell. Tip-off is set for 1 p.m. (ET) at Purcell Pavilion, with tickets still available by calling (574) 631-7356 or going online to UND.com/buytickets.
Freshman Marina Mabrey led the Irish with 22 points in the exhibition victory against Wayne State. Mabrey hit 7-of-9 field-goal attempts and 7-of-8 free throws, tormenting the Warriors with drives to the hoop and mid-range jumpers. She also hit a 3-pointer.
Sophomore Brianna Turner highlighted Notre Dame’s inside game with 18 points and five rebounds. Turner ran the court and turned Irish lobs into lay-ups as the Irish rolled up a 52-12 advantage in the paint.
Another freshman, Arike Ogunbowale, overpowered Wayne State for 14 points.
Point guard Lindsay Allen scored 10 points and dished out 11 assists (the most by a Notre Dame player in the preseason since 2003, when Megan Duffy had 13 vs. Northwest Sports), and Madison Cable nearly pulled off a double-double, scoring 12 points and fighting for nine rebounds.
Notre Dame turned the ball over four times and misfired on two lay-ups and two 3-pointers in the first five minutes of the first quarter, still managing a 9-5 lead against Wayne State. After that, the Irish took command and turned in a dominating performance. The Irish hit 36-of-66 shots (54.5 percent), outrebounded Wayne State 49-22 (which led to an 18-3 advantage in second-chance points), and scored 32 points off of turnovers, compared to nine by Wayne State.
“I thought we did some good things,” McGraw said after the exhibition game. “We struggled a bit on offense when Lindsay went out of the game. I think that’s something we have to work on. Defensively, we could have done a little better. I thought we rebounded the ball pretty well, and we got the break going. It was a pretty good first game for us. We have a lot of things to work on. It showed today.
“I think, the first half, you’re in the uniform for the first time, you’re excited to be out there, I think we were all just trying a little bit too hard,” McGraw said of the way the Irish started. “There were some easy shots that were available that we weren’t looking for, trying to force it inside. I thought we had an advantage there. We kept talking about getting the ball inside, and we passed up some shots because of that. The second half, I think we were relaxed. We went out and played a little bit freer.”
Mabrey and Ogunbowale were impressive in the exhibition game, and showcased their versatility by running the court, battling for rebounds, stepping outside to nail perimeter shots, and taking charges on defense.
“I thought both freshmen played really well,” McGraw said. “It was great to have them both out there. Arike really came in the game and gave us a huge lift in the first half. She did some really good things. She drove the ball well. The second half, Marina came alive. I thought they each played well in a half and got a lot of scoring, which is what we’re expecting from both of them. We got a lot of good things all-around from both of them. I think they can help us on the boards, I think they can both pass, and they can both score. Defensively, I think we are really improving with those two. I’m excited about the prospects of the future with those two.”
Ogunbowale said that she and Mabrey were ready for their moment.
“We both have confidence,” Ogunbowale said. “Everyone gets nervous, but we know that coach recruited us for a reason, and we can’t really show that we’re nervous or show that we’re scared. We have to go out there and play like we’ve been out there for years.”
Mabrey, a 5-foot-11 guard, scored 20 points in the second half.
“When the ball is on the other side of the court, I like to move around a lot, which leads to openings for me,” said Mabrey, whose point total included a smooth lay-up off a lob from her sister, senior guard Michaela Mabrey. “That was a big part of today for me. I think I need to work on being the point, knowing where everybody else needs to be.”
Ogunbowale used her strength and fearless attack-the-hoop drives to create offense.
“I could have driven more,” Ogunbowale said. “I had a couple of poor shots, but I know, in the future, driving to the basket, it will be hard for the other team to stop me, especially if they have smaller guards on me, so I can really take advantage of that.”
Turner’s All-America form was evident quickly for the Irish. The 6-foot-3 Atlantic Coast Conference Preseason Player of the Year hit 8-of-10 field-goal attempts and 2-of-2 free throws for her 18 points.
“Coach always talks about wanting an inside-out game,” Turner said. “The guards did a great job of looking for me inside … and, well … lay-ups.”
Notre Dame rolled to a 46-25 halftime lead, and then dominated the start of the second half in cruising to a 55-27 advantage in the last two quarters.
McGraw said that the Irish will build off of the exhibition game to focus on Bucknell.
“The (exhibition) game showed some weaknesses defensively, which we can work on,” McGraw said. “It showed some places where we’re turning the ball over too much and how we can tighten things up offensively. The press, I thought, had some good moments. That’s as well as we’ve looked with that press for a while. I was pretty happy with that.”
— ND —