Blue and Gold Illustrated

January 2021

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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42 JANUARY 2021 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED WOMEN'S BASKETBALL BY LOU SOMOGYI L ongtime Notre Dame men's bas- ketball head coach Mike Brey has often noted that one-game winning streaks in cutthroat conference play are to be cherished. Two in a row were particularly grati- fying to first-year Irish women's bas- ketball coach Niele Ivey following a pulsating 69-67 win over Georgia Tech Jan. 3 that saw 24 lead changes. On the heels of a sharp, poised and satisfying 71-60 road win at Miami on Dec. 31, Notre Dame (5-4, 3-2 ACC) recorded its first back-to-back wins this season after a sporadic start. Helping spark both victories off the bench was sixth-year senior Des- tinee Walker, who has responded with fire and maturity after getting benched for a full game and a half earlier this year. At Miami, she tallied 17 points and eight rebounds after the Irish had fallen behind 13-4. Versus Georgia Tech — a game in which she scored 15 points and handed out three assists — her corner jumper with 21 seconds left provided the game-winning points, and then a strong collective defensive effort forced an air ball on Georgia Tech's final possession as time expired. The well-coached and talented Yel- low Jackets had dispatched the Irish 82-67 in the two teams' ACC opener Dec. 13, so the rematch just three weeks later was somewhat of a ref- erendum on the progress by the Irish. Notre Dame trailed 28-24 at half- time while shooting only 10 of 28 from the field (35.7 percent), but was 18 of 30 (60.0 percent) in the second half, notably 5 of 7 from three-point range. Junior point guard and sharp- shooter Marina Mabrey led the Irish with 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting (2 of 4 from three). "There was a lot of raw emotion out there today because we did lose to them a couple of weeks ago, and we came together as a team," Mabrey said. "... We trusted each other and had our backs, and that's so huge for a new group rebuilding." "We really grew as a group and as a team, finding a way to play to- gether. I feel like we're growing and getting better," Ivey said. IT'S NOT ABOUT WHO STARTS … … Far more pertinent is who finishes. Senior center Mikki Vaughn and junior guard Abby Prohaska both started against Miami and Georgia Tech and provided much value, es- pecially on defense and in overall toughness and tenacity. Furthermore, Ivey also likes the idea of Walker and sophomore Sam Brunelle — the top two scorers last year — providing instant firepower off the bench while still playing about 30 minutes per contest. It's more about picking the spots and what situations in games call for spe- cific lineups. Sometimes less is more, and a mainly seven-woman rotation versus Miami and Georgia Tech helped establish a better flow and rhythm. The consistent mainstay during the 5-4 start was freshman forward Maddy Westbeld, whose per-game averages of 31.6 minutes, 16.2 points and 7.2 rebounds pace the team, as do her eight blocked shots, while her 24 assists and 14 steals are each second. Walker (12.9), Mabrey (11.9), soph- omore Anaya Peoples (10.3) and Brunelle (9.1) are providing balanced scoring. The 6-3 Westbeld and 6-3 Vaughn supply low-post presence, Walker and Peoples are the best on the team at taking defenders off the dribble, and Mabrey and Brunelle are a combined 34 of 71 from three-point range, a glittering 47.9 percent. With junior guard Katlyn Gilbert (foot) and freshman forward Amirah Abdur-Rahim (tweaked knee) recover- ing from pre-Christmas injuries, Ivey still has the luxury of quality depth this season, including using freshman point guard Alasia Hayes in spots. Scoring prowess and depth are sig- nificantly improved from last year. How far this year's team can go will be more contingent on its defense and rebounding. NEEDING A JANUARY JOLT Other than a game at Syracuse Jan. 10, January is the easier part of Notre Dame's schedule, especially with second-semester classes not starting until Feb. 3. It will be the time to establish a rhythm prior to a February slate that has two games versus No. 2 Louis- ville, a visit to No. 3 North Carolina State, and matchups against No. 22 Syracuse and Florida State, which started 3-1 in the ACC. The home game against Duke Jan. 31 will not take place. The Blue Devils announced on Christmas they will cancel the rest of their season because of COVID-19 concerns. ✦ Sixth-year senior guard Destinee Walker ranks second on the team in scoring (12.9 points per game) after the first nine games of the season. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME ATHLETICS Consecutive ACC Wins Are A Huge Boost To Team's Growth 2020-21 NOTRE DAME SCHEDULE Date Opponent (TV) Result/Time (ET) Nov. 27 at Ohio L, 86-85 Nov. 29 Miami (Ohio) W, 88-68 Dec. 3 Michigan L, 76-66 Dec. 6 IUPUI W, 65-58 Dec. 13 Georgia Tech* L, 82-67 Dec. 17 Virginia Tech* W, 84-78 Dec. 20 at Clemson* L, 78-55 Dec. 31 at Miami* W, 71-60 Jan. 3 Georgia Tech* W, 69-67 Jan. 7 at Boston College* (ACCN) 8 p.m. Jan. 10 at Syracuse* (ESPNU) 2 p.m. Jan. 14 Pittsburgh* (ACCNX) 6 p.m. Jan. 17 Boston College* (ACCN) 12 p.m. Jan. 21 at Virginia Tech* (RSN) 7 p.m. Jan. 24 at North Carolina* (ESPNU) 12 p.m. Jan. 28 Wake Forest* (ACCNX) 6 p.m. Feb. 7 at Louisville* (ESPN/2) 2 p.m. Feb. 11 Virginia* (RSN) 7 p.m. Feb. 15 at NC State* (ESPN2) 5 p.m. Feb. 18 Syracuse* (ACCN) 8 p.m. Feb. 22 at Pittsburgh* (ACCN) 8 p.m. Feb. 25 Florida State* (ACCNX) 7 p.m. Feb. 28 Louisville* (ESPN2/ACCN) 12 p.m. Mar. 3-7 ACC Tournament^ * ACC game; ^ at Greensboro, N.C.; ACCN — ACC Network; ACCNX — ACC Net Work Extra; RSN — Regional Sports Networks; Jan. 31 opponent Duke canceled the remainder of its season on Dec. 25

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