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Game 21 Preview: #5/4 Louisville

Irish host #5/4 Louisville on Thursday, Jan. 30, at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN News

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
Watch:RSN Clearance Sheet | Fox Sports Go | Watch ESPN
Quarterfinals:vs. #2 NC State | 6 p.m. | Friday, March 6
Watch:RSN Clearance Sheet | Fox Sports Go | Watch ESPN
Semifinals:TBD | 2:30 p.m. | Saturday, March 7
Watch:ESPNU
Finals:TBD | Noon | Sunday, March 8
Watch:ESPN2
Live Scoring:StatBroadcast
Listen:PULSE FM 96.9 / 92.1 / 103.1
Social:@NDWBB | Always Fighting, Always Irish

Notre Dame Notes | Louisville Notes

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Purcell Pavilion will be turned completely green on Thursday when the University of Notre Dame women’s basketball team hosts No. 5/4 Louisville for a ‘Green Out.’ The Fighting Irish (7-13, 2-6) clash with the Cardinals (20-1, 9-0) at 7 p.m. ET on ESPNews.

HISTORY WITH LOUISVILLE

Notre Dame leads the all-time series against Louisville, 16-6, with a 6-2 mark at home. Last season, the Irish defeated the Cardinals, 82-68, at home, before defeating them once more for the ACC Tournament Championship, 99-79.

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. The Virginia native leads all ACC freshmen in scoring, averaging 14.1 ppg. In fact, the Irish would have boasted the top three scoring spots for freshmen with Gilbert right behind with her 13.8 ppg.

Nationally, among the power-five schools, Brunelle’s scoring average leads all true freshmen.

Furthermore, in the Points+Assists+Rebounds/Game category – Brunelle leads all freshmen in the ACC as well at 21.7.

Also, important to note, Katlyn Gilbert can qualify for all ACC Rookie awards as well – qualifying as a redshirt freshman.

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

HEATING UP FROM THREE

Sam Brunelle struggled early on from beyond the arc, going 13-of-68 (.191) over the first 14 games. However, she’s flipped the script as of late. Over the last six games, Brunelle has caught fire, converting 18-of-47 (.383) from three.

Since Jan. 5, Brunelle is averaging 3.0 made three’s/game, which ranks 2nd in the ACC in that timespan. The only player better – Virginia Tech’s Aisha Sheppard at 3.2/game.

LIFE WITHOUT PEOPLES

Brunelle has certainly stepped up since the news broke that Anaya Peoples was lost for the season with a torn labrum. Over the last three games, Brunelle has totaled 62 points (20.7 ppg), which included 11 treys.

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. Brunelle then notched her second straight 20+ effort with 21 in her homecoming game at Virginia.

With the loss of the team’s leading rebounder in Peoples, Walker has stepped up in that department. Walker has reeled in 18 boards over the last three 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 63.5 percent from the field in ACC play.

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. IE when Vaughn poured in a career high 18 points at Duke (1/16), recording her second double-double with a career-high tying 11 boards.

In ACC play only, Vaughn ranks: 12th in rebounds (6.9), 1st in FG% (.635), 9th in blocks (1.5) and 2nd in offensive rebounds (3.5).

TRENDING: DESTINEE WALKER

Since the turn of the new decade, Walker has posted the 9th highest scoring average in the ACC with her 15.9 ppg.

Walker has posted three games of 20+ points over the last six 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 15.1 ppg in ACC play, which ranks 11th. Also, she’s converting 76.1 percent of her free throws in league play, which ranks 14th.

MCDONALD’S ALL-AMERICAN

Notre Dame Class of 2020 signee Maddy Westbeld was 1-of-24 honorees selected to play in the 43rd McDonald’s All-American Game on April 1. Westbeld becomes the 20th McDonald’s All-American in Notre Dame history. The Fighting Irish have even boasted three game M.V.P’s in Skylar Diggins, Brianna Turner and Marina Mabrey.

Current McDonald’s All-Americans on the roster include Katlyn Gilbert, Sam Brunelle and Anaya Peoples. Note – fifth-year transfer Destinee Walker competed in the game as well.

Westbeld is a 6-3 forward from Kettering, Ohio and was Notre Dame’s highest ranked recruit in the class, checking in at No. 23 overall and fifth at her position. Westbeld attends Fairmont High.

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 averaging 14.1 ppg & 13.8 ppg, respectively, 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 and Fresno State are the only two Division I programs with two true freshmen averaging over 13.0 points. Fresno State is represented by Hanna Cavinder (15.4) and Haley Cavinder (16.6).

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 23 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 13 consecutive contests. 

On a completely different defensive note – Sniezek is averaging 2.1 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 5.8 assists/game which ranks 13th in the nation and 2nd in the ACC –  only behind Virginia Tech’s Taja Cole (6.5). In addition, her 1.3 A/TO ratio ranks 12th 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 5.9 assists/game, which also ranks 2nd. 

STEALS AND DIMES COMBINED

Sniezek is just 1-of-2 players in the country to average 5.5 assists/game or greater and 2.0 steals/game or greater. The other player being Texas Southern’s Ciani Cryor.

TRUE FRESHMEN STATS

There are only five true freshmen in the country who are averaging over 12.5 ppg and 8 rpg: Anaya Peoples, Evansville’s Abby Feit, UC Santa Barbara’s Ila Lane, South Carolina’s Aliyah Boston and USC’s Alissa Pill. Of that group, Peoples does boast the highest steal average.

Next, Sam Brunelle is 1-of-just-6 true freshmen to average over 14 points and six rebounds. Joining her are Alex Fowler, Haley Cavinder, Suzi-Rose Deegan and Abby Feit – none from a power-five school.

— ND —