March 02, 2018
GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) Fifth-ranked Notre Dame has never lost in the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament since joining the league four seasons ago. And all that success keeps carrying over, most notably in the way the Irish keep blowing out opponents.
Marina Mabrey scored 24 points to help Notre Dame beat Virginia 83-47 in Friday night’s quarterfinals, pushing the Irish’s win streak to 13 games both on the season and all-time in ACC Tournament play.
”I think we understand what it’s like to play in a tournament atmosphere,” coach Muffet McGraw said. ”I think we understand the focus that’s involved, the intensity that’s involved on every possession. I thought we came out really ready tonight.”
Arike Ogunbowale added 16 points for the second-seeded Fighting Irish (28-2), who are trying to become the second league team to win five straight tournament titles.
Mabrey made 8 of 13 shots and 5 of 8 3-pointers to go with seven assists and five rebounds in 30 minutes.
”My teammates were finding me and we were getting inside-out 3s,” Mabrey said, ”and also the dribble penetration and kickout was working for me, also.”
Plenty was working offensively for the Irish, who shot 53 percent, made 8 of 13 3-pointers and finished with 21 assists on 32 baskets. They led 40-27 at halftime, then ran off eight straight out of the break to make it a rout.
When that third quarter was over, Notre Dame had shot 61 percent and more than doubled its halftime margin to 28 points.
”We knew all the plays that they ran,” Virginia senior Aliyah Huland El said. ”They just did a good job of running them. We didn’t take much away from them at all.”
Huland El scored 13 points for the seventh-seeded Cavaliers (18-13), who led for a total of one minute in the opening quarter. And that left coach Joanne Boyle annoyed with her team’s performance to the point that she didn’t emerge from the locker room for her postgame news conference for a half-hour.
”We are getting ready for postseason play and we’ve played some great teams this year,” Boyle said. ”We’ve played a ton of top 25 teams … and then to come out tonight and not see the fight we’ve seen in some other games, that was a disappointing piece because we’re better than that.”
Virginia: The Cavaliers had lost five of seven in February – including against No. 4 Louisville (twice), No. 5 Notre Dame and No. 11 Florida State – before Thursday’s win against Georgia Tech in the ACC second round. They didn’t give themselves much of a chance Friday by shooting 36 percent with six turnovers in the first 10 minutes, sending them on to a quarterfinal loss to the Irish for the second straight year.
”We weren’t as tough as we’ve seen in the past,” Boyle said, ”and that obviously played out in the score as it is tonight.”
Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish arrived in Greensboro seeking to tie Duke’s record run of five straight titles from 2000-04. And only one of their 13 wins – a 55-49 semifinal victory against Duke in 2015 – have come by a single-digit margin.
McGraw pointed to 16 turnovers as a sign that it was hardly a flawless performance for Notre Dame.
”I don’t think we’ve seen it yet,” she said when asked about her team’s potential. ”I think we still have a game in us, maybe more than one, where everybody plays well on the same night. And that will be really fun to watch.
”I think we’ve had moments of brilliance throughout the year. We’ve had halves, we’ve had quarters, but I don’t think we’ve had 40 minutes yet. So I’m looking forward to that game.”
Virginia: The Cavaliers must wait to learn their postseason fate.
Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish advanced to Saturday’s semifinals to face the winner of Friday’s last quarterfinal between No. 11 Florida State and Miami.
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