|Game 20:||Notre Dame at Virginia|
|When:||Sunday, Jan. 26 | 2:00 p.m. ET|
|Where:||Charlottesville, Va. (JPJ Arena)|
|Listen:||PULSE FM 96.9 / 92.1 / 103.1|
|Social:||@NDWBB | Always Fighting, Always Irish|
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – An early test awaits the No. 16/14 Notre Dame women’s basketball team when the University of Tennessee rolls into town for a Big Monday matchup on ESPN2. The Fighting Irish (2-0) will tip-off against the Lady Vols (2-0) at 7 p.m. ET inside Purcell Pavilion. Monday’s matchup will be Notre Dame’s first ‘Green Out’ on the year, as green glow sticks will be distributed upon arrival as well.
IRISH VERSUS THE LADY VOLS
Tennessee may be leading the overall series 21-8, but it’s been mostly Irish since 2011. In fact, the Irish have defeated Tennessee eight times over their last nine encounters. However, Monday’s matchup in South Bend will mark the first the two have battled in the first month of play since 2003.
Who could forget the 2018 encounter dubbed ‘A Comeback For the Ages.’ Trailing 23 points at 37-14 at the 7:03 mark in the second quarter, the Irish recorded a 37-point swing to win 84-70. The 23-point comeback marked the largest deficit overcome in Notre Dame history and tied for the fifth best all-time in Division I women’s basketball. Coach McGraw often cites this game as the one which launched the Irish on a path to a national title.
WELCOME BACK GILBERT
Last season, Gilbert played in six full games, including a breakout Vancouver Showcase, before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury against Iowa on Nov. 29, 2018. Nearly a year later, Gilbert returned in full force, co-leading the team with 14 points. Then in the home opener vs Loyola, Gilbert made the most of her first career start, exploding for a career high 24 points, while also reeling in a career best six rebounds.
Gilbert has already displayed her athletic ability to drive to the basket and get to the free throw line. After two games, Gilbert leads the squad in scoring, field goal percentage, field goals made, free throws made and free throw attempts.
The on-the-court chemistry between guards Katlyn Gilbert and Anaya Peoples has been immediate and there’s no wonder way. Gilbert, from the Indianapolis area, and Peoples from Danville, Illinois, have played together every summer since they were seven and six years old, respectively. The duo first played on FBC together and later finished playing with Midwest Elite in Chicago.
The two spearheaded the big win over Loyola in the home opener, combining for 26 of the team’s 44 second half points.
No. 24 CONTINUED
Putting on the No. 24 jersey in 2019 means big shoes to fill in South Bend. Though Arike’s final two seasons with the Irish could never be replicated, grad transfer Destinee Walker is looking to step up to the plate.
It’s been a long road back for Walker. Her only full season came her freshman year in 2015-16 at North Carolina, starting in 31-of-32 games played. An injury cut her game total the next year to 21 games, then another injury her junior year resulted in just four games.
Fast forward a year and a new school later and Walker debuted with a 10-point, 10-rebound, double-double – just the second of her career. In game two, Walker came out hot, scoring 13 of her 19 points against Loyola MD in the first half. Furthermore, after two games, Walker leads the Irish in rebounding with an 8.0 average.
WHAT WE’VE LOST
Starters Ogunbowale, Young, Mabrey, Shepard and Turner went down as the most prolific scoring fivesome in NCAA Division I history. The ND quintet amassed a total of 10,230 points, becoming the first group to ever accumulate 10,000 points or more.
When you look at those who graduated/went to the WNBA, transferred or who are currently injured (Prohaska & Vaughn), the Irish have lost 3,384 points of their 3,454 team total from last season. That equates to 98 percent of their offense. Both the percentage and total rank as the most all-time lost for a power-five school.
Now last year’s starters went on to make WNBA Draft history – becoming the first starting five to not only be drafted but do so in the first 20 picks. Ogunbowale, Young and Turner were later named to the WNBA All-Rookie Team, as ND became the first program to have three selections.
A program rarity occurred in the season opener at Fordham, when Coach McGraw started freshmen Sam Brunelle and Anaya Peoples. It marked the first time two freshmen started a season opener for Notre Dame since the 2001-02 season opener in which Teresa Borton and Jacqueline Batteast started. And in that moment back in 2001, it marked the first time in 20 years two freshmen had started.
The Rooks stepped up in a major way in the 60-55 season-opening win over Fordham. Sam Brunelle co-led the team in scoring with 14 points, while Anaya Peoples logged 11 points and seven boards. Peoples tallied seven points in the third quarter, then provided critical free throws and an offensive board in the final 10 seconds of the game to ice the win.
The last time a Notre Dame freshman led the squad in scoring in their debut … Brianna Turner in 2014, who shattered the program record for points in an opener with 29 over UMass.
Peoples and Brunelle then became the first Notre Dame freshmen since Turner in 2014 to log back-to-back double-digit scoring performances to begin their Irish career. Peoples notched 19 points in the home opener, while Brunelle nearly earned a double-double with 12 points and nine boards.
— ND —