Dec. 29, 2016
By Leigh Torbin
RALEIGH, N.C. – While the fourth quarter of Thursday night’s game at NC State saw the No. 2 Notre Dame women’s basketball team fight valiantly in an effort to complete the largest comeback in school history – trimming a 19-point deficit to just five points with 1:31 left to play – the Irish could not override a determined Wolfpack. NC State (11-3, 1-0 ACC) hung on to claim a 70-62 upset win over the Irish (12-2, 0-1) in front of a frenzied Reynolds Coliseum crowd.
The loss is only the second suffered by the Irish in ACC play (regular-season or postseason) since joining the league for the 2013-14 season, joining a Jan. 8, 2015, defeat at Miami. Notre Dame is now 56-2 in ACC contests, including the league’s tournament, and had won 35 ACC games in a row prior to Thursday night.
Marina Mabrey scored 11 of her 22 points in the fourth quarter, often punctuated by passionate joyful arm gestures encouraging her teammates, but NC State’s 13-0 run to open the second half ultimately proved decisive.
Following that 13-0 run, the Wolfpack led, 47-28, with 4:42 left in the third quarter. The Irish record for largest come-from-behind-win is 18 points, set on Dec. 30, 2008, at Vanderbilt and matched against Duke on Nov. 26, 2011, during the Junkaroo Jam in the Bahamas. Down by 17 as the fourth quarter commenced, the Irish made that record sweat a little.
A Kathryn Westbeld steal led to a Mabrey 3-pointer with 7:51 to play, making it an 11-point deficit and forcing a Wolfpack timeout. The lead went back to single digits when Lindsay Allen drained a three from the corner at the 7:02 mark to cap an 11-2 Irish run. Coming out of a media timeout, Erin Boley drained a three over an outstretched NC State defender to make it a six-point game with 4:40 to play. The deficit was whittled down to five points at 64-59 with 1:31 remaining as Arike Ogunbowale scored on a lay-up. The Wolfpack, however, would sink all six of their free-throw attempts in the game’s final 1:09 to ice its upset victory, capping a strong 14-for-15 night from the charity stripe.
Aside from Mabrey, Allen was the only other Notre Dame player in double figures, tallying 12 points. Brianna Turner scored just seven points before fouling out, snapping a string of 31 consecutive games scoring in double figures. That stretch finishes as the third-longest such run in school history behind Katryna Gaither’s string of 76 from 1994-97 and a 60-game stretch by Jewell Loyd from 2013-15.
2016 Proves Successful For Irish
Although ending on a down note, the 2016 calendar year proved to be yet another strong one for the Irish who posted a 33-3 record. During 2016, Notre Dame claimed its third consecutive regular season ACC championship and also its third consecutive ACC Tournament crown. The Irish spent a total of five weeks at No. 1 in either the AP or coaches polls and three weeks concurrently atop both sets of rankings while never dropping lower than No. 3.
Notre Dame defeated nine ranked teams during the 2016 calendar year, most recently taking down No. 16 DePaul, 75-61, on Dec. 10 in Chicago. Notre Dame also won the 2016 Preseason WNIT, topping Washington, 71-60, in the championship game. The Huskies have not lost this other than that contest during the 2016-17 season, currently standing at 12-1.
The Irish had not lost on the road in 2016 until tonight, capping a 15-game road winning streak which stands tied for the 12th-longest in NCAA history.
Individually, three players scored their 1,000th career point during the calendar year – Madison Cable, Lindsay Allen and Brianna Turner. Turner also became the third player in school history to block 200 career shots, reaching that plateau in Tuesday night’s victory at Chattanooga in which Allen recorded just the sixth triple-double in school history.
Done With December
Notre Dame lost two games in the month of December as tonight’s defeat joins a 72-61 loss to No. 1 UConn on Dec. 7. Reflecting the tremendous run of success the Irish have enjoyed recently, this is the first time that Notre Dame has lost two games in the same month since February, 2011. That Notre Dame squad fell to No. 2 UConn, 78-57 on Feb. 19 and No. 12 DePaul, 70-69, on Feb. 28, both on the road.
The Irish trailed 20-13 after the first quarter, joining the Dec. 7 game against UConn as the only ones this year when Notre Dame has trailed after the first 10 minutes of play. The 13 points scored by Notre Dame marked its lowest-scoring opening stanza of a contest since Jan. 24, 2016, when the Irish led Virginia Tech, 11-7, after the first quarter.
Notre Dame’s 34-28 halftime deficit marked its first time trailing at the half since finding itself behind Stanford, 50-39, 20 minutes into last year’s NCAA Sweet 16 contest on March 25.
Notre Dame will conclude its six-game road trip after New Year’s when the Irish head to Atlanta to face Georgia Tech on Jan. 2. The Yellow Jackets are 10-2 on the year after defeating Princeton on Thursday night. This game, to be web-streamed on ACC Network Extra, will be Georgia Tech’s ACC opener.
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.