After a season of starts and stops, ups and downs, it’s now ACC Tournament time. The Fightin’ Irish ended the season 10-9 overall, 8-7 in the ACC. It is no surprise that Freshman Maddy Westbeld is the heart of this team. Westbeld in nineteen games averaged 32.0 points per game, yes she is a Freshman. The second impact player and she only started playing after January 1st and that’s Olivia Miles, an early in enrollee and granted eligibility. Miles in just 5 games she is averaging 21.3 points per game. Miles is a true point guard and this team has really leaned on her in the short time she has been with the program. Now its about move and win on.
Both teams had a rough start to this game. ND started with missed points in the paint, while Clemson missed there first three pointer. Mikayla Vaughn starts the Irish on the next possession with a made lay up and a free throw. At 7:13 in the first quarter, Olivia Miles comes into the game. Olivia Miles is the difference on this team. For the quarter the bench had six points and those points belonged to Miles. She can run your floor with the best of them. Her on court presence is enough to boost this squad.
The game of basketball is about runs. How much of a run by playing solid defense and good offense can you build between you and your opponent. Neither team was able to build momentum up to get a run successfully going. The biggest lead for the Irish was three in the quarter. The Irish defense did forced the Tigers to turn the ball over 4 times, but that led to only two points. Meanwhile, Clemson turned ND over seven times that led to nine points. The bonus was Clemson was doing much with the ball either. The bonus was that the Irish were getting points in the paint. Those shots equated for twelve points. The Irish win the first quarter 17-15.
With Miles in the game, and Clemson not wanting her to score, the game opened up for Maddy Westbeld. Westbeld broke out for eight points in the quarter. Dara Mabrey launched a three pointer at 7:58 that put the Irish up by five, and moments later after the defensive rebound by Miles, Westbeld once again gets points in the paint. The “lockdown defense” for the Tigers shutdown the Irish for a period of 2:41 late in the quarter, Mabrey ended the drought with a lay up with 0:47 left in the half. The Irish reduced their turnovers to four, but the Tigers still converted them into five points. The Irish go into the locker room with a 36-31 lead at the half
The one thing Coach McGraw was able to was rally the troops at halftime. She knew exactly what buttons to press. The Irish open up with consecutive turnovers to open the quarter. After the Mabrey lay up, the Irish miss two consecutive baskets in the paint. Remember it’s the game within the game. Both teams struggle again to put points on the board, but Clemson is hanging around. When a team hangs around they also chip away at the lead. At 3:40 left in the quarter, things got a little chippy as Mabrey got tagged with a personal foul for kicking and that led to five quick points for the Tigers. At 1:33 left in the quarter the Irish lead was ten, at 0:10 the lead was to two. Vaughn’s buzzer beater at the end of the quarter put the Irish up four points 54-50.
A four point lead is not a cushion to have going into the last quarter. Vaughn opens up the quarter with a lay up to push the lead to six at 9:44. The Irish go dry for almost two minutes in which Clemson cuts the lead to three at 56-53 at 8:26 in regulation. Westbeld converts on her lay up to push the Irish back to five with 7:56 remaining. The Irish go on another scoring drought in which they don’t score for three minutes.
Clemson meanwhile cut the lead to one point at 6:28. Westbeld gets the lead back to three and the both teams can’t seem to do anything with the ball. From 4:35 to 2:53 neither team scores until Clemson scores on a free throw to cut the lead to two, then one on another free throw by Clemson. At 1:28 Clemson takes the lead and they don’t look back. Clemson steals a win against the Irish in the ACC Tournament as an eleven seed. The final score is 68-63 Tigers.
The Wrap Up
It was a disappointing night for the Irish. The bad passes leading to turnovers is this teams kryptonite. Trying to do too much with the ball has plagued this team all season. Clemson scored twenty nine points on twenty three turnovers. That was the difference in the game. Clemson had seventeen turnovers and the Irish managed only six points. The shiny point in the stat box was the Irish had forty points in the paint. That many turnovers is difficult to recover from.
Maddy Westbeld led all Irish scorers with 21 points, 9 rebounds. Dana Mabrey had 10 points, 2 rebounds and 3 assists. Olivia Miles wrapped up the top three scorers with 10 points, 5 rebounds, 8 assists.
Now the Irish wait and see what their fate is. Do they make the NCAA tournament or do they miss the tournament? That is the question.
Cheers and Go Irish! ☘🏀🌩