The ACC’s best defensive team arrived in South Bend this weekend primed to pull an upset.
After all, Virginia had held No. 19 Virginia Tech to just 27 points three days earlier.
But 2-0 was the only lead the Cavaliers managed on Sunday, and despite pulling even with the Irish (20-3, 8-1) on a few occasions, Virginia (14-7, 3-5) rarely had a grip on Notre Dame’s offense.
Marina Mabrey paced all scorers with 26 points while Arike Ogunbowale hit for 21 in Notre Dame’s 82-74 win. Lindsay Allen had only five points, but notched a rare 10-assist, 11-rebound double-double.
Virginia’s Jocelyn Willoughby had 16 points while Lauren Moses and J’Kyra Brown each had 14. Breyana Mason chipped in 12.
Ogunbowale gave Notre Dame its first nine points after connecting three times behind the arc. She would add a fourth to start the second period. The Irish hit eight three-pointers in the first half to build a 44-36 lead by halftime.
The Irish raced in front despite Brianna Turner spending most of the half on the bench with two fouls while Kathryn Westbeld saw limited action with an ankle injury. Notre Dame was also without defensive specialist Mychal Johnson, out with a shoulder injury.
The Cavaliers started the third period with an 8-0 run, but the Irish answered with a run of their own. Notre Dame’s 9-0 spurt began with Turner’s first bucket of the game and ended with back-to-back alley oops, one from Mabrey to Turner and the other from Ali Patberg to Jackie Young.
With 6:55 left in the game, Virginia’s Mason hit a three-pointer on a broken play to tie the score at 63-63. But the Irish picked up the defensive pressure and made 10-of-14 free throws down the stretch to hold on. Still, Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw knows her squad’s efforts away from the ball need to intensify.
“I’m really pleased with the offense,” McGraw said. “I think defensively, we just have so much work to do. Most of it is just attitude. We have to get the attitude that we want to defend.”
Next up, Notre Dame travels to Blacksburg to take on Virginia Tech on Feb. 2.