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Game 20 Preview: Virginia

Irish tip off in Charlottesville on Sunday, Jan. 26 at 2 p.m. ET on ACCNX

ACC Tournament:#10 seed Notre Dame
Where:Greensboro, N.C.
Tournament Central:Click Here
First Round:vs. #15 Pitt | 3:30 p.m. | Wednesday, March 4
Watch:RSN Clearance Sheet | Fox Sports Go | Watch ESPN
Second Round:vs. #7 Georgia Tech | 6 p.m. | Thursday, March 5
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Quarterfinals:vs. #2 NC State | 6 p.m. | Friday, March 6
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Semifinals:TBD | 2:30 p.m. | Saturday, March 7
Watch:ESPNU
Finals:TBD | Noon | Sunday, March 8
Watch:ESPN2
Live Scoring:StatBroadcast
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Social:@NDWBB | Always Fighting, Always Irish

Notre Dame Notes | Virginia Notes

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The University of Notre Dame women’s basketball team looks to add to its momentum on Sunday when the Fighting Irish (7-12, 2-5) travel to take on Virginia (7-12, 2-6) in Charlottesville. Tip inside JPJ Arena is scheduled for 2 p.m. ET, streaming live on ACCNX.

HISTORY WITH VIRGINIA

Notre Dame leads the all-time series against Virginia, 8-2, with a 3-1 mark in Charlottesville. The series actually began way back in February of 1981. The Irish have won eight straight in the series.

ACC FRESHMEN OF THE YEAR CANDIDATES

Notre Dame can certainly make its point in having an ACC Rookie of the Year candidate. Anaya Peoples was arguably the early favorite. At the time of her injury she led all ACC freshmen in rebounds (8.1), shooting percentage (.457) and steals (1.9), and ranked second in points (12.6).

Now, look no further than Sam Brunelle or Katlyn Gilbert. The duo lead all ACC freshmen in scoring, averaging 13.7 ppg each.

Furthermore, in the Points+Assists+Rebounds/Game category – Brunelle leads all ACC freshmen as well.

Brianna Turner, who remains the program’s lone ACC Rookie of the Year, averaged 13.8 ppg when she won it back in 2015.

ND FRESHMEN STACKING UP HISTORICALLY

Brunelle and Gilbert (by eligibility) are on pace to etch their names in the Notre Dame freshmen record books, as both could end up in the top-10 scoring-average list. Brunelle and Gilbert each average 13.7 ppg, which would tie them for sixth place. Peoples finished with 12.6 ppg, which would currently place her just outside the top-10.

In addition, Peoples’ rebounding effort this year (8.1 rpg) would place her third all-time on the freshmen list, ranking behind Shari Matvey (10.2) and Mary Beth Schueth (9.1).

TRENDING: DESTINEE WALKER

Since the turn of the new decade, Walker has posted the 8th highest scoring average in the ACC with her 16.7 ppg.

Walker has posted three games of 20+ points over the last five games

In fact, Walker leads the team with her five 20+ scoring games, which sets a new career best – previous was four her sophomore year at UNC. 

Ultimately, Walker is averaging 15.7 ppg in ACC play, which ranks 8th. Also, she’s converting 80.6 percent of her free throws in league play, which ranks 9th.

HEATING UP FROM THREE

After winning the three-point shooting contest at the McDonald’s All-America game, Sam Brunelle was expected to help the Irish from three-point range this season. The freshman struggled early on, going 13-of-68 (.191) from beyond the arc over the first 14 games. However, she’s flipped the script as of late. Over the last five games, Brunelle has caught fire, converting 14-of-35 (.400) from three.

Since Jan. 5, Brunelle is averaging 2.8 three’s/game, which ranks 6th in the ACC.

LIFE WITHOUT PEOPLES

Brunelle certainly stepped up last week in the news that fellow freshman Anaya Peoples was lost for the season with a torn labrum – shoulder surgery took place during ND’s bye week (Jan. 23). Brunelle tallied 16 points at Duke (1/16), then followed that with a game-high 25 points in the win over Miami. Brunelle went off in the second half vs. the Hurricanes, scoring 20 points on 9-of-11 shooting from the field.

In fact, she’s not the only one stepping up in her place. Over the last two games, Vaughn is averaging 17.0 ppg and 9.5 rpg. She’s knocked down 14-of-19 from the field.

With the loss of the team’s leading rebounder in Peoples, Walker has stepped up in that department. Walker has reeled in 14 boards over the last two games. She was previously averaging 4.0 rpg.

MIGHTY MIK IN ACC PLAY

Vaughn suffered an ACL sprain in her right knee in the season opener and missed the next 11 games. The junior returned to the team for the start of ACC play, where she has provided a nice boost for the Irish.

No one in the league has been more efficient from the field than Vaughn, who is shooting 63.3 percent from the field.

Since returning, Vaughn has recorded four double-digit scoring games, recording at least 16 points and eight rebounds each time –> those games also included two double-doubles.

REWRITING THE 3RD QUARTER SCRIPT

The Irish have suffered from some difficult third quarters this season, but that was not the case against Miami on Jan. 19. With the scored tied at 32-all at the 7:58 mark in the third, the Irish caught fire and recorded their longest scoring run of the season with 20 straight points. The Hurricanes only managed two free-throws to end the quarter. Brunelle and Gilbert powered the offensive surge, scoring 10 and eight points, respectively.

QUOTES FROM MIAMI WIN

“We’ve never seen this,” McGraw said. “We’ve never seen what we can be. We’ve seen glimpses, very small. Even in games early in the season, we didn’t really play well — even if we were able to win — so I think this is finally the game where we can feel good about the way we played and the way we executed, the way we defended. Really, the way we did everything.

“I think this is the game,” McGraw continued, “that we can point to and say, ‘This is what we can be,’ and now it’s up to us to see if we can maintain that every game.

“I thought Sam looked like an All-American in the second half. Destinee made some huge shots. Katlyn ran the floor and made easy baskets. Marta was particularly efficient today with getting everyone in their spots.”

FRESHMEN DUO SENSATION

Notre Dame women’s basketball has never seen the offensive output from two freshmen like this before, let alone three – Brunelle and Gilbert are each averaging 13.7 ppg, while Peoples finished at 12.6 ppg. There have only been only two other freshmen pairs in program history to finish the season with double-digit scoring averages:

— Arike Ogunbowale (11.4) and Marina Mabrey (10.7) in the 2015-16 season.
— Mary Beth Schueth (13.0) and Carrie Bates (12.4) were the first in the 1981-82 season.

Currently, Notre Dame, UTSA and Fresno State are the only three Division I programs with two true freshmen averaging over 12.5 points. UTSA is represented by Mikayla Woods (15.0) and Adryana Quezada (13.1), while Fresno State boasts the top pair with Hanna Cavinder (16.0) and Haley Cavinder (16.5).

IF ONLY THEY KEPT THE STAT

If charges taken was an official NCAA kept stat, Marta Sniezek could very well be atop the list in the nation.

The defensive catalyst of the team, Sniezek has taken 22 charges this season, which breaks the record set by Kristina Nelson during the 2017-18 championship season. All-in-all, she has taken a charge in 12 consecutive contests. 

On a completely different defensive note – Sniezek is averaging 2.2 steals/game, which ranks 3rd in the ACC. The Virginia native captured a career high six steals at Syracuse on Jan. 5.

SNIEZEK DIMES

Sniezek is averaging 6.0 assists/game which ranks 11th in the nation and 2nd in the ACC –  only behind Virginia Tech’s Taja Cole (6.3). In addition, her 1.4 A/TO ratio ranks 14th in the league.

Sniezek boasts two double-digit assist performances, which ties UNC’s Shayla Bennett for the most in the league. Her 12-assist performance against No. 16 DePaul on Dec. 11, tied for the league high for an individual game.

In ACC play only, Sniezek is averaging 6.3 assists/game, which also ranks 2nd. 

STEALS AND DIMES COMBINED

Sniezek is 1-of-3 players in the country to average 6.0 assists/game or greater and 2.0 steals/game or greater. The other two are Texas Southern’s Ciani Cryor and St. Francis Brooklyn’s Nevena Dimitrijevic.