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Notre Dame Basketball

WBB | Notre Dame Faces Another Tough Road Challenge at NC State

February 18, 2019

After Miami’s upset win at Louisville on Sunday, Notre Dame finds itself in a three-way tie atop the ACC standings with the Hurricanes, Irish and Cardinals all sitting at 10-2. If the regular season ended today, Miami would get the top seed in the ACC tournament thanks to wins against both ND and Louisville.

However, the regular season is far from over, and the Irish still face two tough road games over the final four to hold serve and finish 14-2 in conference play.  The first challenge is up next against NC State in Raleigh, the site of one of ND’s five road losses in ACC regular season play since the Irish joined the league for the 1013-14 season.

The Wolfpack — #12 in the latest AP poll — won the first 21 games of the season before dropping back-to-back contests against North Carolina (by 13 at home) and on the road at Florida State (by 5).  NC State rebounded last Thursday night with a four-point win at #16 Syracuse to move to 22-2 overall and 9-2 in the ACC.  A second straight home win against the Irish would elevate the Wolfpack to a three-way tie atop the ACC.

Like the Irish last season, NC State has suffered several season-ending knee injuries this season including losing starters Grace Hunter in early January and Ericka Cassell less than two weeks ago. Elissa Cunane, a 6’5” freshman, took Cassell’s place in the starting lineup against Syracuse and delivered 22 points and 12 rebounds.  She played 36 minutes and was an efficient 7-11 from the field, 1-1 from three, and 7-9 from the free throw line.

Cunane was a good counterpoint to leading scorer, Kiera Leslie, who scored 30 points and collected 10 rebounds against the Orange.  For the season, the 6’ grad student and Maryland transfer averages 15.8 points and 7.7 rebounds per game.  She’s made 42.8% of her field goal attempts including 40.6% from three.  She’s hit 52 three-pointers this season.  She’s also made 72.8% of her free throw attempts.  In ACC play only, Leslie averages 18.1 points per game - 6th in the conference.  She’s 18th in the ACC in rebounds with an average of 6.7 per game. Leslie logged 38 minutes against Syracuse and averages 36.1 minutes in the ACC — 7th in the conference.

The ACC leader in minutes per game is Wolfpack point guard, Aislinn Konig, who plays 38.4 minutes per game in conference.  The 5’9” junior guard from British Columbia averages 11.5 points and 3.5 assists per game with an assist to turnover ratio of 1.2 (17th in the ACC).  She makes an average of 2.7 three-point baskets per game and shoots 34.9% beyond the arc in conference.  Both are down slightly against ACC competition. For the full season, she’s at 3.0 makes and 39.9% accuracy.

The other two starters will likely be D.D. Rogers and Kai Crutchfield.  Rogers is a 6’1” senior, who averages 5.3 points and 7.1 rebounds per game. She’s grabbed an average of 9.0 rebounds per game in the ACC — 4th best in conference.   Crutchfield, a 5.8” sophomore guard averages 5.0 points per game. The only bench player with meaningful minutes against Syracuse was 6’1” freshman Kayla Jones, who averages 3.7 points per game.

The Wolfpack plays stingy defense and limits opponents to 57.2 points per game and 34.1% from the field (6th in the NCAA).  NC State is holding ACC opponents to 56.9 points per game, which is second in the ACC behind Louisville.  ND is third at 59.1 in the ACC.

The Wolfpack hasn’t been turning over opponents this season, — opponents average only 11.9 giveaways per game vs. NC State’s 14.5.  The Wolfpack is a solid rebounding team at 44.4 for the season and 42.4 in conference — just behind ND at 42.9 and conference leader, Miami, at 43.3.

NC State is not an especially gifted offensive team averaging 71.8 points per game for the season — 70th among NCAA teams.  Wolfpack scoring has dipped to 66.0 in the ACC, which is 7th in the conference.  Notre Dame leads the ACC in scoring at 85.9 points per game — more than 10 points better than second place Louisville.  NC State is 4th in the league in field goal percentage at 42.1%.  ND leads the conference at 50.9%, and the Irish are the only team to shoot better than 50% in conference play.  

NC State is seventh in three-point shooting percentage in the ACC and sixth in made threes per game at 7.4. The Irish lead the conference in team three point shooting percentage, but only make 5.1 per game in conference play.

Irish Notes: Arike Ogunbowale needs just 34 points to become Notre Dame’s all-time leading scorer.  She’s scored over 30 points five times this season but never higher than 32.  So, she has her best chance at topping Skylar Diggins Smith’s scoring record at home against Duke this coming Thursday evening.

Marina Mabrey hit her 249th three-point basket against Boston College last week.  She’s now tied with Sheila McMillen in second place for most three-point makes in a career behind the 262 made by Alicia Ratay.  Mabrey has made 37 of 72 three-point tries in ACC play, an average of 3.1 per game. She has an excellent chance of breaking the record.  Through 12 games, her 51.4% in three-point shooting accuracy leads the conference.  

Mabrey has scored 1,762 career points — 238 shy of 2,000.  She has an outside chance of making it, but will need to up her current scoring average and the Irish would have to make it to the finals of both the ACC and NCAA tournaments to give her the maximum number of possible games.

Brianna Turner is just 205 points short of 2,000 for her career. At her current scoring average of 13 points per game, she’s not likely to have enough games left to close the gap.  Turner is also closing in on 1,000 rebounds — she needs just 69 more to hit that mark and 76 more to catch Ruth Riley as the all-time rebounder at Notre Dame exclusively.  She’s currently averaging 7.3 rebounds for the season and 6.6 in conference play.  Jess Shepard has already collected 1,097 rebounds at Nebraska and Notre Dame to go with 2,094 points.  

Turner is also just 37 blocks behind the 370 career blocks by Riley.  Turner is currently averaging 3.4 blocks per ACC game and would need 11 games to grab the record if she maintains that average.

All five Notre Dame starters have been nominated to the Naismith Trophy Midseason Watch List.  The field will be trimmed to 10 on March 4th.  Ruth Riley was the last ND player to win this award in 2001.  Given the balance among the Irish starters, it’s unlikely that one of the five will win this award, although Ogunbowale will probably make the next cut.

Both Ogunbowale and Shepard are in the final 20 on the John R. Wooden Award watch list.  Ogunbowale is also among 10 finalists for the Ann Meyers Drysdale Award, which recognizes the top shooting guard.  Shepard has been named one of ten candidates for the Katrina McClain Award presented to the top power forward.

Turner has been named among 10 candidates for the Lisa Leslie Award, which goes to the nation’s best center.  Finally, Jackie Young is among the final 10 for the Cheryl Miller Award, which honors the best small forward.

The ND-NC State game will be televised on ESPN2 at 7 pm eastern.  In-game updates will be posted below.

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