Matt Cashore / IrishIllustrated.com

Irish Turn Cold Start Into Hot Finish

No. 6-ranked Notre Dame shakes off sluggish to dominate visiting Pittsburgh, 86-54.

Just four days earlier, Irish head coach Muffet McGraw noted that Brianna Turner had been passive in Notre Dame’s “ugly” win over Miami. The junior got the message. Turner scored nine of the squad’s 13 points in the first period to get the Irish offense back on track, scoring more than 80 points for just the second time in the last seven games.

In addition to Turner’s 11 points, Arike Ogunbowle (19 points), Jackie Young (15) and Kristina Nelson (13) all had double-digit efforts. Notre Dame (16-2, 4-1) shot 50 percent (26-of-52) for the game, scored 34 points in the paint and corralled 41 rebounds.

The Panthers scored just 10 points in the paint and finished with 19 rebounds.

The Irish also connected on 27-of-30 free-throw attempts.

For the Panthers (10-7, 1-3), Brenna Wise and Alayna Gribble led the way with 17 points each.

Ogunbowale found Turner on a lob for Notre Dame’s first bucket of the game. Despite mixing up defenses and extending the pressure early, the Panthers trailed only 13-7 by the end of the first period. But less than three minutes into the second, Ogunbowale drained back-to-back three pointers and added another about five minutes later for good measure as the Irish pulled away.

Notre Dame sophomore Ali Patberg, now healthy and starting to see more playing time, scored the first two points of her collegiate career and the last two of the half to give the Irish a 37-20 advantage.

It was more of the same to start the third quarter as Ogunbowale connected on the fourth of her five treys, and Pittsburgh could only watch as Notre Dame continued to increase the margin. No Irish player logged more than 27 minutes, and all 10 players who saw action scored at least two points.

“We shoot the ball a lot better at home … I think everybody does,” said head coach Muffet McGraw. “On the road, our defense has been spectacular so that's really helped us.

“I think we're shooting the ball really well. I think we're in a pretty good place offensively, and defensively as well. I see a lot of progress. I see a lot of good things.”

Notre Dame will step outside of conference play for an ESPN2 “Big Monday” matchup with Tennessee at Thompson-Boling Arena on Jan. 16.

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