The weather outside was cold and snowy, but, inside the Purcell Pavilion,the Lady Irish looked to warm things up on the court against the Miami Hurricanes.
Prior to Thursday night’s contest, the Irish learned they will be without grad student Lili Thompson due to an ACL injury that will keep her sidelined for the remainder of her season. With this injury, the fourth knee-related injury of the season, the Irish will be carrying only seven scholarship players the rest of the season.
The short bench will force the Lady Irish to play at a much higher level without another big on the bench. The Lady Irish have the tenacity, but they need to play a game that will allow them to have some energy at the end. Miami was their first test of this strategy.
The Miami Hurricanes came in off a big win over Duke on New Years Eve. They definitely carried that momentum into Thursday night. Miami wasted no time putting points on the board, as they put six quick points up against the Lady Irish in the first quarter.
Some poor ball control by Irish, coupled with a defensive press by the Hurricanes, led to a quarter of offensive and defensive miscues by the Irish. It took the Irish all quarter to cut the deficit to four as the Canes took a 22-18 lead to the second quarter.
In the first, the Irish were 5-15 from the field and had only eight rebounds, all on the defensive end. Arike Ogunbowale led all Irish scorers with 6 points and Marina Mabrey followed with 5 points.
The second quarter saw the winds of change creep in against the Lady Canes. The Lady Irish opened with a 6-2 run to bring the game back to even at 26-all. The run was capped by a shot from Mabrey from beyond arc that brought the packed arena to its feet.
Rebounding on both ends of the court was the momentum changer in the quarter for ND. The Irish out-rebounded the Lady Canes 16-15, with 6 offensive rebounds that led to 5 second chance points.
Jackie Young brought the fans to their feet again with a layup with two seconds left in the quarter. With a solid performance to end the half, the Irish righted the ship and went into the locker room with a 40-36 lead. Mabrey led all scorers with 14 points on 5-8 shots from the field, including 2-3 from beyond the arc.
In the second half, the Lady Canes came out with something to prove. Their suffocating defense applied pressure on the Lady Irish offense once again, forcing Irish turnovers that led to a quick six points on the other end for the Canes. After a timeout, Mabrey hit a big three-pointer to stop the Canes run.
Towards the end of the third quarter, both teams struggled to find the basket. The Irish went 3:58 without scoring a basket and the Canes went scoreless for 2:35 to close out the quarter, leaving the game at a 55-all tie.
In the third, Kristina Nelson contributed with 4 points. Mabrey had 3 points and 30 minutes played. Jessica Shepard, Jackie Young, and Kathryn Westbeld all contributed with 2 points apiece.
The Irish opened the fourth quarter with a 7-2 run. From that point forward, the Irish would not look back. The Irish worked to a seven-point lead which opened up to nine points late in the quarter. Shepard had a monster rejection on the defensive end just before the media time out at 4:44 to highlight the run.
In all, the Irish prevailed on a total team effort. With 28 points in the fourth quarter, the Irish finished the game to beat the Canes 83-76. Mabrey led all Irish scorers with 21 points in a 40 minute effort, 4 rebounds , 7-14 from the field, including 3-8 from three-point range. Ogunbowale followed with 20 points, including 11-12 from the free throw line and 4-17 from the field.
Coach McGraw opened her press conference praising her opponent, and their “their ability to make layup after layup” as well as their defense that “played really well and hard defensively.”
A question was asked about the Irish not having a point guard and how hard it was to keep pace with the up and down of the game. Coach McGraw responded that “We have a point guard in Marina and we started off the game and had nothing to do with the point guard. I thought the beginning part second half start was a point guard problem. We struggled at times against the press. We were looking for a couple different people to help us out. We did not move to the ball and we didn’t help out each other.”
A question was asked about the resiliency of the group and how they were able to overcome the slow start. Coach McGraw’s response: “It’s big and we can’t let it use it as an excuse. That’s my big worry. We only have seven scholarship players and you can only play five of them at a time, and they need to be ready to play.”
I made a comment to Coach McGraw about Mabrey’s 40 minutes and 21 points and Coach responded that “she’s in great shape and she really is. I don’t look at her conditioning as a factor at all. I think she can play the whole game with pressure. The zone helped a little bit by not chasing anyone around. I love that I can depend on her. She is so resilient.”
Next up for the Irish the Louisville Cardinal on the road at 7PM EST. Good Luck and Go Irish!