Notre Dame Fighting Irish - Official Athletics Website

Cancun Challenge Preview

Irish clash with FGCU, South Dakota State and #21 USF

Games 7-9:(RV) Notre Dame at the Cancun Challenge
Tournament HQ:Click Here
Where:Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya in Cancun, Mexico
Watch:FloBasketball Stream
Listen:PULSE FM 96.9 / 92.1 / 103.1
Live Scoring:Click Here
Game 7:Florida Gulf Coast | Thursday, Nov. 28 | 1:30 p.m. ET
Game 8:South Dakota State | Friday, Nov. 29 | 11:00 a.m. ET
Game 9:USF | Saturday, Nov. 30 | 11:00 a.m. ET
Social:@NDWBB | Always Fighting, Always Irish

Notre Dame Notes

CANCUN, Mexico – Three games in three days – that’s the waiting task at hand for the Notre Dame women’s basketball team in the Cancun Challenge. The Irish will clash with Florida Gulf Coast, South Dakota State and No. 21 South Florida, in said order, starting on Thanksgiving Day.

The only way to watch all three games is to order the FloBasketball Stream subscription ($). Fans can also listen in live to Pulse FM with Tony Simeone and Karen Keyes on the call.


Notre Dame and FGCU will meet for the very first time when the Irish kickoff the Cancun Challenge on Thursday.

Friday will mark the third ever meeting with South Dakota State, with the Irish leading 2-0. The last time the two met was Nov. 21, 2016, in Brookings, South Dakota, when the Irish won 75-64.

Then the Cancun finale, the Irish will re-engage with an Old Big East foe in South Florida. Notre Dame leads the series 11-2 and most recently met in the Gulf Coast Showcase two years ago, when the Irish achieved a 76-66 victory. The Bulls are ranked No. 21 in the country and boast a ranked win over Texas.


Notre Dame will play on Thanksgiving Day for the second year in a row, but just the third time in the history of the program. The first Thanksgiving Day matchup came in 2009, when Notre Dame defeated San Diego State, 84-79, in the Virgin Islands. It also happened to be Coach McGraw’s 500th win at Notre Dame.

Last season, the Irish opened the Vancouver Showcase on Thanksgiving with an 81-65 victory over Gonzaga.


Over the past decade (since the start of the 2009-10 season to be precise), the Irish are undefeated in Thanksgiving week tournaments/showcases with a 13-0 record.

Over the past two years the Irish competed in eight-team brackets, winning both the Gulf Coast and Vancouver Showcases. In 2015, the Irish went 2-0 in the Bahamas as part of the Junkanoo Jam and did the same again in 2011. Lastly, the Irish traveled to the U.S. Virgin Islands and claimed the Paradise Jam title with a 3-0 mark in 2009.


The new-look Irish are certainly learning and growing together during the early portion of the season. Notre Dame has already recorded four games that finished in five points or less, and are 3-1 in said instances.

The Irish trailed by nine points late in the second quarter against Toledo on Nov. 20 before rallying to win 54-51. Then three days later the Irish stormed back from 11 down midway through the second quarter at No. 21 Michigan to gut out a 76-72 victory – their first ranked win on the year.

The last time the Irish trailed by double digits and won was when Notre Dame rallied down 14 against Oregon State in the Vancouver Showcase on Nov. 24, 2018. The Irish ultimately won 91-81.


Never in the history of the Fighting Irish women’s basketball program has a player started her ND career with five straight games in double figures … until now. Freshman Sam Brunelle did just that with her 19-point performance in the win over Toledo, picking up her first career double-double as well with 13 boards.

Brunelle continues to add to her record, as she made it six straight at No. 21 Michigan when she poured in 12 points.

Brunelle currently co-leads the Irish in scoring with Gilbert with 15.3 ppg, which ranks 14th in the ACC.


Over the last four games, the Irish have been absolutely disruptive on defense, forcing at least 20 turnovers in each game. In fact, Notre Dame has totaled 93 forced turnovers in those four games, which is tied for ninth in that span since Nov. 10.

Notre Dame ranks first in the ACC in turnovers forced and 53rd in the nation, averaging 21.33 on the year. Furthermore, the Irish boast a +4.5 turnover margin, which ranks third in the ACC. The Irish also rank second in the league and 48th in the country in steals per game with an 11.0 average.

Speaking of steals, three Irish players currently rank in the top-10 in the ACC in steals, all averaging over 2.0/game: Gilbert – 2nd with 2.5 // Sniezek – 4th with 2.3 // Walker – 9th with 2.2.

Gilbert, who leads the team in steals, has garnered 11 steals over the last three games.


Coach McGraw noted before the season that this year’s crop will have to pride itself on defense. The Irish forced 28 Lady Vol turnovers, including 10 in a six-minute span in the fourth quarter. It marked the most turnovers forced since Notre Dame caused 25 against Tennessee on Jan. 18, 2018.

Over the last two games, the Irish defense limited both Toledo and No. 21 Michigan to exactly 28 second half points. The Irish tallied 32 points off of turnovers against the Wolverines, which is the current high mark on the season.


Trailing by seven points in the fourth quarter to Michigan State, Sam Brunelle tried spearheading the rally by scoring 11 of her 19 points in the final period alone. Brunelle connected on two treys in the quarter, including one with 10 seconds left to cut the deficit to one. Brunelle also got a final three-point attempt up at the buzzer to tie the game, but the shot came up just short.

Then at No. 21 Michigan on Nov. 23, Brunelle recorded a stretch in the fourth quarter in which she scored nine of the team’s next 11 points, ultimately finishing with 12 points for the game.