Another Year, Another Loss to UConn for Notre Dame

Muffet McGraw, head coach
Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw listens to a referee during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Michigan, Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017, in Ann Arbor, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

One of the biggest rivalries in women’s college basketball was renewed on Sunday afternoon. For the seventh straight time, UConn took down Notre Dame, this time by a score of 80-71. The Irish have yet to beat the Huskies since 2013 when Skylar Diggins was at the point.

For much of the first three quarters, Notre Dame was in full control of the game. At the half, the Irish led 43-36 on the road in Hartford. They were out-rebounding the Huskies 23-15. Even at the end of the third quarter, the Irish led by eight points. But then all fell apart in the fourth quarter.

In the fourth quarter, the Irish shooters went cold, and UConn began to hit shots. The Huskies would outscore the Irish 26-9 to turn an eight-point deficit to start the quarter into a nine-point victory. While shooting just 37.8 percent hurt Notre Dame, the real problem late was the inability to rebound. For most of the game and the season, the Irish have out-rebounded the opposition. Tonight, they lost the rebounding battle 41-39. Despite the differential being very small, it was the turning point late in the game.

Sophomore Jackie Young struggled for the Irish after having a stellar start to the season. The guard went 1-5 with just two points and five rebounds on the afternoon. The real stars of the game for Notre Dame were juniors Marina Mabrey, Arike Ogunbowale, and Jessica Shepard. Mabrey, who has struggled with her shot so far this season, exploded for 21 points on 6-15 shooting including 4-9 from deep. Ogunbowale sparked the Irish’s run in the second quarter, and she finished with 19 points overall. Shepard had a big first half but cooled off in the second half. She finished with 10 points and eight rebounds.

There are a few positives to come out of this game for the Irish. This is the first time all season that a team has gotten within 17 points of the Huskies. Another is the play of graduate student Kristina Nelson. Nelson held her own at the post and combined well with Shepard deep on the blocks.

After seven straight games on the road, the Irish will return home to Purcell Pavilion on Wednesday to face Michigan State. The Irish have just four games remaining before the start of ACC play. They will also play four of the next five at home after playing seven of the first eight on the road. With limited depth, Notre Dame will benefit significantly from getting into a routine at home.

Tip-off vs. Michigan State is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET from Purcell Pavilion. The game will be broadcasted on the ACC Network.

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