Jan. 31, 2018
|Game 23: #5/5 Notre Dame (20-2, 8-1) vs North Carolina (14-7, 4-4)|
|When:||Thursday, Feb. 1 | 7:00 pm ET|
|Where:||Notre Dame, Ind. | Purcell Pavilion (9,149)|
|Listen:||Pulse FM 96.9 / 92.1 | Bob Nagle (PxP)|
|Notes:||Notre Dame | North Carolina|
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Coming off of its biggest win against a top-10 team in program history, the No. 5 University of Notre Dame women’s basketball team looks to keep its momentum rolling when the Irish (20-2, 8-1) host North Carolina (14-7, 4-4) inside Purcell Pavilion on Thursday, Feb. 1. Tip-off is slated for 7 p.m. ET on ACCN Extra.
Thursday’s contest between Karen & Kevin Keyes Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw and North Carolina head coach Sylvia Hatchell will feature a combined 1,877 career wins between the two.
Jessica Shepard continues to have the hot hand as evidenced by her being named the ACC Player of the Week this past Monday. Shepard averaged 23.5 points and 10.5 rebounds in road wins over Pitt and No. 8 FSU. The ACC weekly honor marks the second for Shepard this season.
Shepard notched her seventh double-double of the season with 28 points and a season-high tying 12 rebounds at Pitt. She scored 13 points in the first quarter, marking the fourth time this season in which she has reached double-digits in the opening period. Midway through the first half, Shepard recorded a stretch in which she scored 15 of Notre Dame’s next 17 points, ultimately finishing with 28 for the game, marking the most for her in a road contest this season.
Next, Shepard came one rebound shy of yet another double-double, reeling in nine boards to go with her 19 points at Florida State.
All-in-all, the junior continues to ride her season high streak of consecutive double-digit scoring games, extending the number to eight. Within that streak, Shepard has surpassed the 24-point mark twice.
Furthermore, the Nebraska native is shooting 63.6 percent over the last five games, raising her season shooting percentage to 56.7 percent, which ranks fourth in the ACC and 31st in the nation.
CAREER VS UNC
Notre Dame is 6-1 all-time vs North Carolina, with the lone loss occurring back on March 20, 2007, in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The Irish have since won four straight, with their last encounter resulting in a swift 77-55 win in Chapel Hill a year ago.
Marina Mabrey has had the most success, tallying 13 and 14 points in two games against the Tar Heels.
When the Irish needed to make a statement game at No. 8 Florida State, the senior veteran Kathryn Westbeld answered the call with the best game of her career. Westbeld achieved a double-double with a career high 21 points and a season high 12 rebounds, leading the Irish in scoring for just the third time of her career. It marked the second double-double on the year and sixth of her career. Westbeld shot 8-for-11 from the field and 2-for-4 from beyond the arc, as her eight made field goals tied her career best.
Westbeld is certainly heating up at the right moment. Over the last three games, the senior has made 15-of-23 from the field (65.2 percent), averaging 13.0 points and 9.3 rebounds in that span.
Finally, Westbeld ranks third both overall (.611) and in ACC play (.587) in shooting percentage.
When facing another top-10 team on the road, the Irish made an impactful statement in their 100-69 win over No. 8 FSU. First and foremost, it marked the largest offensive showing against a top-10 team in program history. It also was the sixth most points ever scored in a true road game and the most points scored in an ACC game since the Irish tallied 104 vs Boston College on Jan. 11, 2015.
Lastly, the last two top-10 teams Notre Dame has faced, the Irish have walked away with double digit margin wins — previously defeating No. 6 Tennessee, 84-70.
Graduate student Kristina ‘Koko’ Nelson has made the most of her time off the bench as of late. Koko leads the team in field goal percentage, knocking down 61.8 percent from the floor. The grad student boasts three double-digit scoring performances this season, which doubles her career amount heading into the year.
Nelson went a perfect 5-for-5 from the field at No. 8 FSU, finishing with 11 points, five rebounds, three assists and two blocks. She is now averaging 9.0 points and 6.0 rebounds over the last three games.
When looking further back to Tennessee on Jan. 18, Koko posted the best plus-minus of anyone on the team with a +20.34.
ABOUT THE TAR HEELS
North Carolina enters Thursday’s bout with a 14-7 overall record and 4-4 mark in ACC play. The Tar Heels have split their last four games, winning in overtime both times at Wake Forest (W, 79-76) and vs Duke (W, 92-86), but is coming off an 82-70 loss at Virginia.
North Carolina is led by Paris Kea who averages 19.6 points per game. A preseason All-ACC pick, Kea is the only ACC player to record a game of 30 points, 10 assists, and boasts three 30-plus point performances. The Tar Heels are also boosted by Janelle Bailey, as the five-time ACC Rookie of the Week leads all freshman in scoring in the conference at 15.4 points per game.