NOTRE DAME, Ind. – It was a gritty back-and-forth battle inside Purcell Pavilion on Sunday between the University of Notre Dame (5-4, 3-2) and Georgia Tech (4-3, 2-2), in a contest that featured 24 lead changes and nine ties. However, it was the Irish who lived up to their fighting moniker to edge out the Yellow Jackets, 69-67.
Supersub Destinee Walker came off the bench to tally 15 points (13 in the second half), including the game-winning baseline jumper. Then, the Irish defense shut down Georgia Tech over the final 15 seconds to hang on for their second straight win.
Dara Mabrey produced another big second half for the Irish, where she scored 14 of her 16 points. In fact, Mabrey scored 10 in the fourth quarter alone, including two critical three-pointers.
Mikki Vaughn played a pivotal role down the stretch as well, ultimately securing a season-high 11 points with a career-high tying four steals. Maddy Westbeld also finished in double figures with 11 points, while Anaya Peoples stuffed the stat sheet with seven points, seven boards and a career-high tying six assists.
“I’m so proud of this group. I thought we came out with a lot of toughness,” Karen & Kevin Keyes Head Coach Niele Ivey stated. “A lot of that toughness was generated by Mikki Vaughn. Her presence made a difference for us and set the tone defensively. It was down to the wire and we had so much composure.”
HOW IT HAPPENED
Georgia Tech made a shot at the buzzer to take a narrow 14-13 lead after one. The Irish shot 6-of-10 from the floor, while the Yellow Jackets kept pace by taking six more shots at 6-of-16.
A Georgia Tech 9-2 scoring run from 5:52-2:10 opened up a 25-19 lead for the visitors. With eight seconds left, Mabrey brought the ball down the court and dished to Westbeld for a three at the buzzer to pull within four at 28-24 at the half.
Westbeld and Peoples led all Irish at the midway point with seven points and four rebounds each. The Irish were shooting 36 percent compared to Georgia Tech’s 41 percent, while being outrebounded 21-15.
The Irish got off to an 11-4 start in the second half, receiving contributions from Westbeld, Prohaska, Mabrey and Brunelle. Later, Prohaska’s third basket of the quarter pushed the home squad ahead at 39-37, but then Georgia Tech’s Lotta-Maj Lahtinen came alive with five straight, prompting a Coach Ivey timeout.
A Walker three at 3:32 knotted it all up at 42-apiece, capping a stretch in which the Irish had made eight of their last 10 shots from the field. Walker delivered from beyond the arc again at 1:48, before Mabrey hit a tough driving layup at the buzzer to pull within one at 48-47, heading into the final quarter.
A big moment of the game happened between the eight and seven minute mark. Georgia Tech’s Fletcher hit a three-pointer to give the Yellow Jackets a 53-51 lead. Yet, Mabrey immediately responded from deep. Then on the next possession, Walker picked up the steal and dished to Mabrey for the spinning layup and 56-53 advantage.
Another big moment came at the 3:19 mark, after a Peoples steal led to a fastbreak and-one for Walker, giving the Irish a 64-60 lead.
Vaughn was also key down the stretch on both sides of the ball. The senior secured two steals in the final five minutes and also scored five of the team’s eight points during a two-minute stretch.
Later, with 21 seconds left, Walker converted what would be the game-winning baseline jumper, giving the Irish a 69-67 advantage. Next, the Irish defense made a huge stand, shutting down Georgia Tech over the final 15 seconds to earn the hard-fought victory.
- Notre Dame leads the overall series now 14-1, with a 7-1 mark at home.
- For the third straight game, Walker came off the bench and finished in double figures, totaling 15 points – 13 of which came in the second half.
- Mabrey scored 14 of her 16 points in the second half, including 10 in the fourth quarter. She has now scored double-digit points in the second half for the second straight game. She also joins Westbeld and Brunelle as players who have tallied double-digit points in the fourth quarter alone as well.
- Vaughn tallied a season high 11 points, five of which came in the fourth quarter. She also secured a career-high tying four steals, two of which came in the final five minutes of the game.
- Brunelle has hit a three-pointer in all seven games she’s played. When going back to the end of last season, the streak extends to 12 games.
- Mabrey went 2-of-4 from deep and is now 11-of-16 from three-point range in ACC-play only.
- Despite fouling out, Westbeld secured her eighth game in double figures with 11 points.
- Peoples tied her career high in assists with six. She also led the team in rebounds with seven.
- Lotta-Maj Lahtinen, who was averaging 25.3 ppg in ACC play entering today’s game, was held to 11 points on 5-of-12 shooting. Lorela Cubaj was also held to six points and eight rebounds.
- Georgia Tech, who has made at least nine treys in three consecutive games entering today, was held to 6-of-23 from beyond the arc.
Up next, it’s a northeastern road swing for Notre Dame. The Irish will start at Boston College on Thursday, Jan. 7, then end at Syracuse on Sunday, Jan. 10.
— ND —