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ACC Semifinal Preview: Notre Dame vs. Miami

Notre Dame easily handled Miami earlier this season, but the Hurricanes also represent Muffet McGraw’s only ACC loss since the Irish joined the league.

Semifinal/ACC Tournament: No. 2 Notre Dame (29-1, 16-0 ACC) vs. No. 21 Miami (24-7, 10-6 ACC)
Date: March 5, 2016
Place: Greensboro Coliseum; Greensboro, N.C.
Time: Noon ET
TV: ESPNU/WatchESPN
Opponent nickname: Hurricanes
Head coach: Katie Meier
Location: Coral Gables, Fla.
How They Got Here: Notre Dame dropped Duke, 83-54, in quarterfinal action while Miami advanced to the semifinals with wins against Pittsburgh (77-55) and Florida State (74-56).

HARD TO FORGET

Since joining the ACC, the Irish have a sparkling 54-1 record. That lone blemish came against Miami on Jan. 8, 2015 in Coral Gables. Down 20 points at the half, the Irish cut the lead to six but could never get any closer en route to the 15-point loss.

But the last two times Notre Dame has squared off with Miami, the Irish have taken care of business. Last season Notre Dame ousted the Hurricanes from the ACC Tournament with a 77-61 quarterfinal victory, and then beat Miami soundly, 90-69, last month at home during a regular-season matchup.

But still…

“Any time you lose a game,’’ said Irish head coach Muffet McGraw, ‘‘that’s the team you want to play again.’’

MORE THEIR SIZE

Unlike Duke, which featured four players at 6-foot-4 or taller, Miami doesn’t have a player over 6-3 on their roster. Their lineup is centered around the guard play of 5-6 Jessica Thomas and 5-9 Adrienne Motley, the team’s leading scorers at 11.7 and 15.8 points per game, respectively. Both are junior captains who are smart, experienced players. Motley has had her moments against Notre Dame, scoring a career-high 32 points in Miami’s victory over the Irish last season. But she managed just eight last month when Miami visited South Bend. Still, Notre Dame’s guard play will have to be clicking on both ends of the floor.

The Irish will likely try to get the ball inside to Brianna Turner, who scored 15 points to go with six blocked shots in the last meeting. Turner also will be asked to handle 6-3 Emese Hof down in the post. Hof averages 8.4 points and 5.4 rebounds per game, and leads the team in blocked shots. Turner, however, will have help. Sophomore Kathryn Westbeld is back in the lineup again after sitting out the last two games of the regular season with an ankle injury.

FRESH IS THE WAY TO GO

Miami will be playing its third game in as many days, while this is just the second game for the Irish in the ACC Tournament. The Hurricanes also have fewer effective players coming in off the bench, with its three key subs averaging 5.4, 2.8 and 2.0 points per game. Notre Dame, however, has four players averaging double figures in scoring in Turner (14.1), Madison Cable (13.5), Arike Ogunbowale (12.2) and Marina Mabrey (11.0).

“We have a depth advantage,” said Irish associate head coach Niele Ivey. “So we can keep throwing fresh bodies at them.”

Prediction: Notre Dame 81, Miami 55


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