|Game 26:||Notre Dame at #9 Louisville|
|When:||Sunday, Feb. 16 | 3:00 p.m. ET|
|Where:||Louisville, Ky. (KFC Yum! Center)|
|Watch:||ACC Network | Pam Ward & Kelly Gramlich|
|Listen:||PULSE FM 96.9 / 92.1 / 103.1|
|Social:||@NDWBB | Always Fighting, Always Irish|
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Three wins in a row – that’s what’s at stake when the Notre Dame women’s basketball squad (9-14, 4-7) hosts Pittsburgh (4-18, 1-10) on Sunday, Feb. 9, inside Purcell Pavilion. Tip is slated for 4 p.m. ET, airing live on ACC Network. Brett Dolan and Monica McNutt have the call. Fans can also listen to the game on Pulse FM radio.
HISTORY WITH PITT
Notre Dame leads the all-time series against Pitt, 28-3, including an unblemished mark of 13-0 at home. The Irish and Panthers have already met this season, as Notre Dame looks to complete the season sweep after defeating Pitt, 60-52 on Jan. 2. Mikki Vaughn and Destinee Walker shone bright in the previous matchup, scoring 17 and 16 points, respectively.
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.
Gilbert leads all ACC freshmen in scoring, averaging 13.8 ppg, while Brunelle sits right behind at 13.7 ppg. In fact, the Irish would have boasted the top three scoring spots for freshmen when you add in Peoples’ 12.6 ppg. The next highest is Clemson’s Amari Robinson at 11.2 ppg.
Nationally, among freshmen at power-five schools, Brunelle’s scoring average ranks 8th while Gilbert ranks 7th.
Brunelle is 1-of-12 freshmen nationally to average over 13.5 points and 6.0 rebounds. Also Brunelle leads all ACC freshmen in the Points + Assists + Rebounds/Game category at 21.4.
Next, there are only two freshmen pairs in all of Division-I women’s hoops to both average 13.5 ppg or higher –> ND’s Brunelle and Gilbert and Fresno State’s Haley & Hanna Cavinder.
All-in-all, 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
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.
Brunelle has converted multiple treys eight times over the last nine games. In fact, since Jan. 5, she has converted 22-of-62 (.355) from three. Also since Jan. 5, Brunelle is averaging 2.4 made three’s/game, which ranks 6th in the ACC in that timespan.
LIFE WITHOUT PEOPLES
Brunelle has certainly stepped up since the news that fellow freshman Anaya Peoples was lost for the season following the NC State game. Since, Brunelle is leading the Irish in scoring at 16.0 ppg in that span, earning double-digit points in 5-of-6 games. She is shooting 39.8 percent from the floor and 34.9 percent from three.
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, and almost garnered a double-double against No. 5 Louisville with 17 points and 9 boards.
Coach McGraw has stressed the need for consistency from all five starters in order to succeed and win. When looking at stats in wins versus stats in losses, one can see we go when Walker goes. In losses, Walker averages 11.4 ppg on 31.7 percent shooting, with a 13-for-71 clip from three. In wins, Walker averages 17.9 ppg on 44.9 percent shooting, with a 13-for-40 mark from three. Thus, same amount of threes in five less games and 31 less attempts.
WALKER WILLS IRISH TO WIN
After sitting with just two points at the half at Wake Forest on Feb. 6, Destinee Walker absolutely took over the game to help the Irish earn the 75-71 win. Walker scored 12 points in the third, followed by 10 points in the fourth. Her 22 second half points were scored on 7-of-9 shooting, including a 7-of-8 mark from the free-throw line.
MIGHTY MIK IN ACC PLAY
No one in the league has been more efficient from the field than Vaughn, who is shooting 58.2 percent from the field in ACC play. Since returning, Vaughn has recorded six double-digit scoring games, recording at least 16 points in five of those games.
For example, when Vaughn tallied 18 points at Duke (1/16), recording her second double-double with a career-high tying 11 boards. Also when Vaughn poured in a career high 20 points on 10-of-15 shooting at Georgia Tech (2/2).
Lastly, Vaughn dished out a career best five assists vs No. 5 Louisville, marking her first 5+5+5 Stat Stuffer game, earning eight points and five boards as well.
FLIPPING THE SCRIPT?
This young Irish squad has struggled in closing out multiple games for the win this season; yet, three times over the last few weeks, the Irish have flipped the late-game script.
–> Jan. 19 vs. Miami – Tied 32-all with 7:58 left in the third, the Irish close out the period on a 20-2 run and defeat the Hurricanes, 76-53.
–> Feb. 2 at Georgia Tech – With 5:09 left in the third quarter, the game was tied at 33-all. The Irish then produced a 17-4 scoring run and went on to win, 59-51, against the nation’s then second-best defense.
–> Feb. 6 at Wake Forest – Irish trailed the Demon Deacons 52-51 heading into a fourth quarter which featured 13 lead changes and nine ties. Yet, Notre Dame dug deep and won 75-71.
MORE ROAD WINS THAN HOME WINS
Interesting to note, that the Irish are 5-4 on the road this year (three of which came in ACC play), yet 3-8 at home. ACC road wins have been tough to get, as only seven of the league’s 15 teams have more than one win away from their home gym in conference play.
OLYMPIANS ON THE HORIZON
In the 40-year history of the program, the Irish have had only two Olympians: Ruth Riley and Canada’s finest Natalie Achonwa. As the 2020 Tokyo Olympics draw near, the Irish could finally add three more names to the list: Skylar Diggins-Smith, Kayla McBride and Jewell Loyd. All three have suited up recently in either exhibitions versus college teams or FIBA Olympic qualifying action.