The NCAA title defense is on! The NCAA Tournament officially kicked off in earnest. The campus was abuzz as the Irish once again host the first two rounds off the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament. Bethune-Cookman was making their NCAA Tournament debut. The Wildcats reward for winning their MEAC conference is playing the National Champion FIghtin’ Irish.
The Wildcats battled the knee injury bug injury like the Irish did last year. Five players had knee surgery this past season. The Wildcats will once again face an ACC team in the post season. In the WNIT, the Wildcats played Wake Forest in 2017 and Georgia Tech last year.
There is no surprise that the Irish were ready to play this morning. From the tip-off the wanted to show the Wildcats that they were not going to win today. After watching the Irish drive in the paint all season long, there was no surprise when Jessica Shepard got the ball inside and got the games first points of the game. Shepard has owned the paint all season long. The Irish opened a 6-0 lead against the Wildcats, and the Wildcats had their own surge.
The closest the Wildcats would get to the Irish would be at the 5:36 when the score would go to 9-7. The Irish appeared to need a time-out but Coach McGraw did not use it. A minute later in the media time out Coach gave an inspired talk.
The Irish came out of the time out a much different team. After the time out, the Irish scored 18 points and limited the Wildcats the rest of the quarter. They essentially shut down the Wildcats and they made them work, offensively and defensively. Closing out the quarter, Shepard was working a near double double after ten minutes. Shepard had 10 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists. The Irish take the first quarter 29-12.
The second quarter saw the Irish turn on the afterburners. The Irish defense was just swarming and the Irish offense was scoring at will. They were so dominant that the Wildcats did not score for a period of 7:11. The Irish at that point had built up a 35 point lead before the Wildcats scored their 14th point.
The run was an 18-0 stretch, could have been more if there were a few less turnovers. If anyone thinks that this team was going sit back and not play against the Wildcats, they were sadly mistaken. The Irish win the second quarter 22-7 and run the score to 51-19 at the half.
The third quarter saw the Irish continue to dominate. The Wildcats tried to flex their muscle at the beginning of the quarter but the Irish defense allowed the Wildcats ten scoring opportunities. Seven of those opportunities were from the Free-Throw Line. Nine of the sixteen points in the quarter came via the three-pointer. The Irish were not allowing the Wildcats to step into the paint.
On the offensive side of the ball, it seemed like they were playing “catch me if you can.” Brianna Turner was dominating with her height as she compiled eight points, six from inside the paint. Arike was showing why she is so strong, not just from distance. Arike battled in the paint and scored six points in the paint and 3 points from the free throw line. Ogunbowale is definitely not one dimensiona as some think she is. The Irish win the third quarter 23-16. The game tally rolls to 74-35.
With the game being at such a wide spread, you knew that Coach McGraw was going to rest her starters and get some time in for her bench players. Shepard tallied the Irish first six points of the quarter and Jackie Young got the last two points for the starters. Then the moment came for the starters to be gathered up and watch the reserves get some playing time.
Danielle Cosgrove was the first of the reserves to score. That score came via the three pointer. Abby Prohaska and Mikayla Vaughn both garnered points in the paint before the end of the game. Jordan Nixon added a three pointer of her own finish the game for the Irish. With the reserves in, the Irish still win the quarter 18-15 and brings the final score of 92-50.
Post Game Press Conference
Shake Down The Thunder Sports: “Angel, What does the team take away from playing a team like Notre Dame?”
Angel Golden Response: “Just knowing we can play with anybody. Yes they blew us out, we worked hard to get here and we will be back.”
Coach McGraw Opening Statement
“What a great job by by Bethune-Cookman to come through the year like we had last year. So we can certainly appreciate the adversity they faced. The resilience it took. I think they were down to eight players, they gave it all they had, what a remarkable season, just a great job by Coach Lewis and I (Coach McGraw) was really glad they were here.”
Shake Down The Thunder Sports: “Coach at 4:36 in the first quarter, the team looked like the needed a time out and luckily there was a media time out. What was the message because they completely turned it around after the time out?”
Coach McGraw’s Response: “I think we were struggling fining the shooters. Golden she’s a really great player, Needed to emphasize we find her all the time. I felt we were a little careless, had a couple turnovers that were careless, we just got a little more focused after that time out.”
Shake Down The Thunder Sports: “Coach, turnovers have been a thorn in your side all season. What do you do to convey the message to not to do too much with the ball. But not just dish it off, just think about where you are going to throw?”
Coach McGraw’s Response: “I think a lot it is we are running something and looking for something and trying to something specific and it’s not there, we have already picked up our dribble, a little off balance, we are not quite in the stance we should be in and then no one is going to the ball. Everyone is waiting for that one thing to happen. Keeping your dribble is the big thing. If it’s not there move onto the next thing.”
The Notre Dame Women’s Basketball team will face Michigan St on Monday night at 7 PM on ESPN. The Spartans beat Central Michigan St in a close game 88-87. The Spartans have a few “bigs” that will give the Irish some fits. Shake Down The Thunder Sports will be there as well.
Cheers and Go Irish! ☘🏀⚡