Back in February at Duke, Notre Dame had a tough time shaking the Blue Devils and needed some late-game heroics to do it.
This time it wasn't even close, at least not after the first few minutes of Friday’s quarterfinal matchup in the ACC Tournament at the Greensboro Coliseum.
Once No. 2 Notre Dame heated up Duke had no answer for the Irish, which shot 46 percent from the field and connected on 7-of-19 three pointers. The freshman duo of Marina Mabrey and Arike Ogunbowale each scored 14 points to lead Notre Dame (29-1), which advances to a semifinal showdown with No. 21 Miami on Saturday.
“It was a complete (performance)," said associate head coach Niele Ivey. "We have so much balance offensively and, when you have to play so many minutes back-to-back (in the tournament), it's great to get so many contributions (from different players)."
Duke notched the first points of the game on a pair of free throws, followed by the two teams trading several buckets. But then the Irish used a 16-2 run, sparked by six points from senior Hannah Huffman off the bench, to start pulling away.
The Irish led 39-24 by halftime.
“We were a little slow (to start the game), and I think we had a little anxiety about getting back out there and playing,” Ivey said. “But then we settled in and the starters did very well and we got great contributions from the bench.”
The second half proved to be more of the same.
The Blue Devils cut the lead to 13, but then the Irish went on a 12-0 run to put the game out of reach. In addition to Marina Mabrey and Ogunbowale, seniors Michaela Mabrey and Madison Cable chipped in 11 points apiece, while sophomore Brianna Turner rounded out Notre Dame's double-digit scorers with 10. The Irish also had 14 assists and just seven turnovers. Notre Dame scored 19 points off of Duke’s 14 turnovers.
“Well, that was not a great game for us,” said Duke head coach Joanne P. McCallie. “Congrats to Notre Dame. I thought they played very well. We had turnover, turnover, turnover, and they ran on those, and that was very unfortunate.
“I know there weren't a lot of turnovers in the game, they had seven, we had 14, but in that game they converted 13 points in the first half off turnovers. If you deduct that from their total, it's a 26-24 game. That's a big problem. You cannot be spotting teams, certainly teams with that kind of experience and that kind of senior leadership.”
Duke's Azura Stevens led the Blue Devils with 19 points, which included all 18 of the Blue Devils' points in the paint. Notre Dame consistently collapsed three players on the Duke bigs, which proved to be effective when paired with Turner’s play. She picked up her first foul less than one minute into the game, but wasn't whistled for a second until the fourth quarter. Notre Dame blocked four shots and altered several others.
Kyra Lambert was the only other Duke player in double digits with 12, delivering off the bench. Beyond Stevens, the Blue Devils' other four starters combined to shoot 5-of-25 for 15 points. Clearly, Duke missed No. 2 scorer Rebecca Greenwell who was out with a back injury, but she most likely wouldn't have been enough to bridge the gap.
"We got to rest the starters for a big game (Saturday), I thought we executed well and I was really pleased with our bench," said Irish head coach Muffet McGraw. "So that was a positive, and just having that confidence coming out of the game feeling really good about what we did."