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Irish Defeat Phoenix, Advance to WNIT Final

Nov. 17, 2016

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By Leigh Torbin

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – No. 1 Notre Dame extended its Purcell Pavilion winning streak to 33 games and the player who wears number 33 for the Irish, Kathryn Westbeld, helped seal the team’s 71-67 victory over feisty Green Bay on Thursday night.

A Mehryn Kraker 3-pointer for the Phoenix had cut the Irish lead to just five points at 66-61 and Green Bay got the ball back with just over a minute to play. Westbeld locked down on Phoenix star Jessica Lindstrom at the defensive end and tied up the ball, giving it back to the Irish on the possession arrow with 1:08 to play. Arike Ogunbowale missed a 3-point try on the ensuing Notre Dame possession, but Westbeld grabbed an offensive rebound (Notre Dame’s 20th of the night) and dished it to Marina Mabrey. Mabrey was fouled while shooting, sank both free throws with 35 seconds to play, and the Irish went on to claim the tight Preseason WNIT semifinal matchup.

“She definitely is (a glue player), and I think she can do even more,” Karen and Kevin Keyes Family Head Women’s Basketball Coach Muffet McGraw said of Westbeld afterwards. “We know she’s going to be solid rebounding-wise. She’s smart. She knows how to get to the high post and take the shot when it’s there or make the pass when it’s there. I think she makes good decisions. She made some big plays down the stretch. I was really happy with that.”

Ogunbowale led the Irish with 18 points on the night. Westbeld topped the team with her eight rebounds accompanied by 10 points. Senior point guard Lindsay Allen filled out the box score nicely with eight assists, eight points, five rebounds and three steals while playing all 40 minutes. As usual, reigning Horizon League Player of the Week Lindstrom was the top player for the Phoenix with 20 points and 16 rebounds.

Play of the Day

The Irish will be hard-pressed at any point this year to surpass the magic they showed to end the third quarter. Freshman Erin Boley grabbed a defensive rebound with about seven seconds left in the quarter. Boley slipped a pass around a Green Bay defender to Ogunbowale who, near half court, looked up at a clock with just over four seconds remaining. Ogunbowale threaded a lob to Brianna Turner over the defense but under the basket but the junior was tumbling out of bounds as it reached her. Turner saw Westbeld and, in mid-air, tipped the ball back to her for a buzzer-beater that put the Irish up 55-43 at the quarter break.

Jackie Young Debuts

Freshman guard Jackie Young made her long-awaited Irish debut tonight after missing the first two games with a thumb injury. The 2016 Indiana Miss Basketball and Naismith National Player of the Year checked into the contest during a media timeout with 4:51 to play in the first quarter.

Young showed her multi-faceted abilities for the rest of the first quarter. She made quality entry passes from the perimeter on her first two Irish offensive possessions although neither led to a basket. When Allen poked a ball loose at midcourt, Young tracked it down to the corner, diving near the baseline to obtain possession for the Irish. She made an athletic play in the paint to rebound a Kristina Nelson miss and put it back at the basket without touching the ground (although the shot rimmed out). Young’s first career basket came back from the outside on a textbook catch-and-shoot set up by a Turner kick-out pass. Finally, Young grabbed a defensive rebound as the quarter expired, keeping the Phoenix from a final-second score.

Young played 15 minutes on the night, scored three points, grabbed seven rebounds and assisted on a basket.

Taking Momentum Into the Locker Room

The Irish asserted themselves just before intermission closing the second quarter on a 9-2 run to go up by 11 points, 41-30, at halftime.

Leading by just four points, 32-28, Mychal Johnson drained a three with 2:08 left in the frame to get the ball rolling. The Irish, ironically, seized the most momentum after a Green Bay timeout with 1:28 to go. Turner stole a loose ball, drove it the length of the court and layed it up and in. Westbeld aggressively grabbed a rebound on the following Phoenix possession and passed it to Ogunbowale who pushed it the length of the floor for a layin just three seconds before halftime.

Coach McGraw Says

On if there is extra pressure being ranked No. 1: “Everybody’s going to give you your best shot when you’re ranked anywhere in the top five. We have to be prepared for that and I think we are mentally prepared. Everybody’s good and we’ve got some things to work on, this time of year especially. We’re not exactly in top form right now. (Green Bay) is a veteran team and they looked like it.”

Up Next

The Irish will face No. 17 Washington at 3 p.m. on Sunday in the Preseason WNIT championship game. The Huskies advanced with a 79-66 win over No. 25 Missouri on Thursday night in Seattle behind 32 points from All-American guard Kelsey Plum.


Leigh Torbin, athletics communications associate director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 2013 and coordinates all media efforts for Notre Dame’s women’s basketball and men’s golf teams. A native of Framingham, Massachusetts, Torbin graduated from the University of Massachusetts in 1998 with a bachelor’s degree in sports management. He has previously worked full-time on the athletic communications staffs at Vanderbilt, Florida, Connecticut and UCF.