|Game 17:||Notre Dame (8-8, 6-6) at Pitt (5-10, 3-9)|
|Where:||Petersen Center | Pitt, PA|
BLACKSBURG, Va. – Karen & Kevin Keyes Family Notre Dame women’s basketball head coach Niele Ivey instructed her squad to ‘continue to build.’ The Fighting Irish (7-5, 5-3) will look to do just that Thursday, Jan. 21, when they travel to Virginia Tech (7-5, 2-5). Tip is set for 7 p.m. EST inside Cassell Coliseum. The contest is a RSN (Regional Sports Networks) game, so please check your local listings. For those in the South Bend area, expect the game to be on the Marquee Network.
HISTORY WITH VIRGINIA TECH
Notre Dame leads the overall series, 12-2, with a 4-1 record in Blacksburg. The two sides last clashed on Dec. 17 at Notre Dame, where the Irish surged past for the 84-78 victory. Anaya Peoples shone bright in that matchup, scoring 13 of her 15 total points in the second half.
Sam Brunelle was huge from three, where she converted 5-of-9, ultimately finishing with 17 points. Then there was freshman Maddy Westbeld who recorded 23 points on 7-of-16 shooting, plus a 7-of-9 day from the free-throw line.
ACC ROOKIE OF THE YEAR NOMINEE
First and foremost, Westbeld is the only player in the ACC to win two weekly league honors thus far. Westbeld was named ACC Rookie of the Week on Dec. 7, then again on Jan. 3.
Now on to the stats, Maddy’s 16.0 ppg not only leads the team, but also ranks 8th overall in the ACC.
Not to mention, her scoring average tops all ACC freshmen and ranks 8th among all freshmen in the country. Furthermore, she’s 1-of-2 freshmen in the country averaging at least 16 points, 7 rebounds & 1.5 steals.
After her career high 25-point performance in the win over Wake Forest on Jan. 14, Maddy now owns 4 games of 20+ points, which ranks second in the ACC.
Furthermore, the freshman currently ranks in the top-15 in the ACC in five different statistical categories: 8th in scoring (16.0), 11th in rebounding (7.2), 12th in FG% (.471), 6th in Steals (1.7) and 8th in D-Reb (5.0).
TURN THE THREE AROUND
A season ago, the Irish ranked dead last in the ACC in three-point shooting percentage (.271). Fast forward to now and the Irish have recorded quite the renaissance from beyond the arc primarily thanks to the trio of Mabrey, Brunelle and Westbeld. In fact, the Irish are converting 38.7 percent from three, which not only ranks 1st in the ACC, but also 15th in the country. All three are shooting over 40 percent from deep.
Mabrey is knocking down 47.1 percent from three, which ranks 3rd in the ACC and 25th in the nation. In addition, she has been pretty lights out from deep since the start of ACC play, converting 15-of-26 from three, aka 57.7 percent.
Brunelle is shooting 42.9 from deep, and like Mabrey, is shooting even better in ACC play, where she’s at 44.4 percent (12-of-27). Then there’s Westbeld, who keeps you honest from three. She’s knocked down 42.4 percent with a 45.5 percent clip in conference play.
Mikki Vaughn is heating up at the right time for the Irish. The senior has recorded four straight games in double figures, which continues a career-high streak. Vaughn has shot a combined 22-of-30 (.733) from the field to total 47 points in that span aka 11.8 ppg.
Vaughn’s 73.3 percent shooting in January marks the highest of any player in the ACC. All-in-all, Vaughn has raised her shooting percentage from .389 to .604 over said four-game span She’s also raised her scoring average from 4.3 to 8.0.
Defensively, Vaughn went on a tear as well last week, recording back-to-back games with four blocks. She now has tied her career high of four blocks three times this season.
Then, there was Maddy, who averaged 19.0 points, 8.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists and 2.0 steals in ND’s back-to-back wins this past week. If the points & rebound average wasn’t impressive, her assist average was higher than any of our guards.
4TH QUARTER MAGIC
Westbeld, Brunelle and Mabrey have all recorded at least one instance in which they went off in the fourth quarter and tallied double-digit points in the final period alone. On Jan. 17 vs. Boston College, it was Destinee Walker’s turn, making it four total Irish this season.
Walker fired off 14 of her 20 points in the final stanza. It marked her second 20+ game this season.
In the Jan. 19 Bracketology report by ESPN’s Charlie Creme, the Irish have moved back into the projected NCAA Tournament field. They are currently listed as a No. 10 seed.
HERE COME THE IRISH
If winning four of your last five wasn’t enough momentum, the Irish received great news that Blair Academy star point guard Olivia Miles has enrolled early and will be able to start practicing with the team as early as Jan. 25. Miles made up one-half of Coach Ivey’s top-five nationally ranked recruiting class that also featured guard Sonia Citron. Miles was ranked the No. 8 prospect overall by ESPN and the No. 2 point guard.
In addition, junior forward Danielle Cosgrove made her return on the same day and is on the same timetable to play as Miles.
Destinee is performing as one of the top sixth players in the country right now. She’s 1-of-2 players with 10+ games played, but 5 or less games started, averaging 12 points or more. The other is USC’s Jordan Sanders and her 15.0 ppg
But it’s not too often you have a 2020 ACC Honorable Mention player coming off your bench. In particular, Destinee has thrived off the bench over the last six games, scoring in double figures in four of them, and even leading the Irish in scoring in two.
During the six-game span, Walker has averaged 14.0 ppg on a combined 30-of-66 (.455) shooting.
Walker scored a blistering 14 of her 20 points in the final quarter vs. Boston College (1/17). She also called game against Georgia Tech (1/3), hitting the game-winner from the baseline with 20 seconds left to lift the Irish to a 69-67 victory.
Notre Dame was firing on all cylinders against Boston College on Jan. 17, shooting a season-high 61.4 percent in the game. In fact, the Irish shot 50 percent or higher in all four quarters. Furthermore, it marked the first time the Irish shot over 60 percent in a game since playing Lehigh on Dec. 30, 2018.
The game prior vs. Wake Forest, the Irish converted 55.9 percent from the field – thus have shot over 55 percent in two consecutive games. The last time they achieved that feat was also the 2018-19 season:
56.7 (38-67) at Syracuse, 2/25/19; 55.1 (38-69) vs Virginia, 3/3/19, 58.0 (40-69) vs North Carolina, 3/8/19 (Greensboro, N.C.).
SAM’S SHOOTING IMPROVEMENT
Now Sam is certainly not taking as many shots as last year, coming off the bench, but her accuracy has vastly improved. Brunelle’s scoring average is down from the fact she went from averaging 13.2 shot attempts/game to 6.3 this year.
However, her percentages are way up in year two. She went from shooting 31.5 percent from three as a freshman to 42.9 percent this year. She also went from 39.7 percent overall to 52.4 percent, which ranks 2nd on the team behind Vaughn.
COLLECTING THE FREEBIES
Destinee has been a shining example from the free-throw line, where she has converted 38-of-43, aka 88.4 percent accuracy. That percentage ranks 4th in the ACC and 41st in the country.
In addition, she currently has made 13 free throws in a row.
STAT-SHEET STUFFER ANAYA
Anaya has three 5-5-5 ‘Stat-Sheet Stuffer’ games this season, including two in the last four games. A stat-sheet stuffer is when you get 5 or more three major stat categories.
Due to her success to pad the stats, Peoples & Westbeld are 1-of-4 players in the ACC averaging at least 10 points, 6 rebounds & 1.5 steals. The other 2 are Georgia Tech’s Lotta-Maj Lahtinen and Lorela Cubaj.
Against Boston College on Jan. 17, Peoples tied her season high of 11 rebounds for the 3rd time this season. She also added 9 points, 4 steals and 5 assists.
She previously notched her 2nd ‘Stat-Sheet Stuffer’ with 7 points, 7 rebounds and a career-high tying 6 assists in the 69-67 win over Georgia Tech on Jan. 3. Her first one was against Miami OH (11/29), tallying 5 assists and a career high 5 steals to go with her 14 point, 11-rebound, double-double.
— ND —