|Game 10:||(RV) Notre Dame vs. (RV) Minnesota|
|When:||Wednesday, Dec. 4 | 8 p.m. ET|
|Where:||Purcell Pavilion (Notre Dame, Ind.)|
|Listen:||PULSE FM 96.9 / 92.1 / 103.1|
|Social:||@NDWBB | Always Fighting, Always Irish|
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – A top-25 showdown and a quick chance to bounce back await the No. 15 Notre Dame women’s basketball squad on Thursday night. The Fighting Irish (2-1) play host to No. 16 Michigan State (2-0) inside Purcell Pavilion at 8 p.m. ET, live on the ACC Network.
IRISH VERSUS THE SPARTANS
Notre Dame leads the overall series against Michigan State, 11-8, with a 6-4 mark at home. The two have battled very recently, the second round of the 2019 NCAA Tournament to be exact. Then, the Irish cruised to a 91-63 victory inside Purcell Pavilion before marching on to Tampa and the Final Four. Furthermore, the Irish boast a seven-game win streak against the Spartans.
PROTECTING THE HOUSE
Purcell Pavilion continues to be one of the toughest venues to play in women’s hoops. Over the last 114 games at home, the Irish have only lost four times. Before the season, the only team who had defeated Notre Dame during that stretch was UConn. Tennessee then became the second team on Nov. 11.
Notre Dame is 483-94 all-time inside Purcell Pavilion. Most notably, however, has been how dominant the Irish have been in league play at home. Notre Dame has won a school-record 58 consecutive home conference games, beginning with a 66-47 win over Providence on Feb. 14, 2012, in BIG EAST play.
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 has returned in full force, leading the team in scoring. In fact, her 16.7 ppg ranks 11th in the ACC. Gilbert also leads the Irish in shooting percentage (.513) and made field goals (20), as the latter ranks 11th in the country.
Gilbert made the most of her first career start versus Loyola Maryland, exploding for a career high 24 points, while also reeling in a career best six rebounds. She is currently 1-of-14 ACC players with a 20+ point performance already under her belt.
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, who is competing in a full season for the first time in two years. Her only true injury-free season came her freshman year in 2015-16 at North Carolina, starting in 31-of-32 games played.
Walker debuted with the Irish 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. Walker then led the Irish in scoring against Tennessee with 18 points.
After the loss to the Lady Vols on Nov. 11, Coach McGraw urged Walker to be confident and take more shots when she has open looks.
NO REST FOR THE IRISH
Four Notre Dame starters all rank within the top-12 in the ACC in minutes. Destinee Walker sits atop the league, averaging 37.0/game. Sniezek ranks fourth with 34.7, Gilbert eighth with 33.3 and Brunelle 11th with 32.7.
With the exit of last year’s starting five, the transfers of Nixon and Patterson, along with Prohaska’s and Vaughn’s injury, the Irish had a starting five this past week who have never started in an Irish uniform: two grad transfers, two true freshmen and a redshirt freshman (sophomore Katlyn Gilbert).
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.
In game two vs Loyola, Peoples notched 19 points, while Brunelle nearly earned a double-double with 12 points and nine boards.
In game three vs Tennessee, Brunelle kept the double-digit scoring streak alive with a season high 16 points. Keep in mind that in 2014-15, Brianna Turner logged four consecutive games in double figures.
Brunelle is currently averaging 14.0 ppg while Peoples is averaging 13.0 ppg.
Marta Sniezek has certainly stepped into the vocal leadership role of this year’s squad. As the resident floor general, Sniezek is averaging 5.3 assists, which ranks fifth in the ACC. Sniezek has also been disruptive on defense, averaging 2.0 steals per game. In fact, the Virginia native took two charges in the second quarter against Tennessee on Nov. 11.
Coach McGraw noted before the season that this year’s crop will pride itself on defense. Though the outcome didn’t fall Notre Dame’s way against Tennessee, the Irish can certainly be proud of the fact they forced 28 Lady Vol turnovers, including 10 in a six-minute span in the fourth quarter. It marked the most turnovers forced since Notre Dame caused 25 against Tennessee on Jan. 18, 2018.