Chattanooga, TN — It only took No. 2 Notre Dame’s Arike Ogunbowale 30 seconds to snag a rebound and throw up a perfect fadeaway to set the tone Tuesday night in Chattanooga, Tenn.
But then again, that’s been the story of the season for head coach Muffet McGraw’s Irish—start out strong, finish like one of the top teams in the nation.
“I was very pleased with the start we had,” McGraw said. “Coming off of break, we only had one practice yesterday, and I was a little worried about how we were going to come out. I think offensively we really looked good, which I thought would be the other way. I thought we would play better defensively and be a little rough on offense.”
Turnovers, fouls and fast play combined to put the smart-shooting Irish up 10 before the Chattanooga Lady Mocs scored their first bucket. And Notre Dame looked nothing less than flawless on their fourth-straight road game.
Chattanooga’s aggressive play began to show with six minutes left in the first quarter, a slow start for head coach Jim Foster’s four-time Southern Conference champions who came into the contest having played five already against Top 25 ranked opponents and three against teams ranked in the top four.
Strong lane presence by the Irish set the tone, as well as nabbing offensive and defensive rebounds alike. At the end of the first quarter, Notre Dame had set up a dominating lead of 26-12, capped off by yet another Ogunbowale jumper.
The matchup between these two teams capped off the Irish’s non-conference schedule and augmented a now 15-game road winning streak, one of the best streaks in the history of women’s NCAA basketball.
However, the matchup also meant just a little bit more for McGraw. It was her sixth win as head coach against a Foster-coached team—the man who first hired her as his assistant at St. Joseph’s in 1980. McGraw’s hiring replaced yet another familiar face in the women’s basketball scene, UConn head coach Geno Auriemma.
Since coming to Notre Dame, McGraw is now 6-0 against Foster-coached teams, having lost the first three matchups against him when she was the head coach at Lehigh. Possibly the most noteworthy game against Foster was a 72-64 win for McGraw, which carried her Fighting Irish to the 2001 Elite Eight, and later the team’s first national championship.
But mentor and worthy opponent might not be Foster’s most important title to McGraw—he’s also the godfather of her son, Murphy.
The Lady Mocs would nail a 3-pointer to start off the second in an attempt to charge the offense and the home crowd. But thanks to a stout Irish defense, there would be limited penetration of the lane all game.
“We know how to play hard in the second, third and fourth quarter,” Foster said. “We've done it at Louisville, we've done it here, we've done it with Connecticut, we've done it with very good teams.
“We have to start games better and understand what that means.”
Notre Dame ran the score up to 44-29 at the half, shooting 58.1 field goal percentage and nabbing 25 rebounds en route. Chattanooga held a 36.4 field goal and three point percentage, but only added 12 rebounds to the contest. Both teams netted 7 turnovers.
The Lady Mocs began to find their way up the lane in the third quarter, though most of their shots would come close to taking the full 30 seconds. However, their defensive attempts would come with a price as starting forward Jasmine Joyner tacked on her third foul with 6 minutes left in the third.
The Irish would take the third quarter with a 64-46 lead.
Chattanooga would look to establish momentum throughout the second half, snagging chunks of it, only to be vanquished by a devastating Irish team.
Notre Dame would take the second meeting between the two teams 79-58, nearing the previous victory’s score of 88-53 in 2014.
“Brianna (Turner) was amazing,” McGraw said. “She proved why she's an All-American, and Lindsay Allen as well. These two really ran the team. They did everything they need to do to get the win.”
Turner led the Irish with 24 points, going 10 of 13 on field goals and adding 5 rebounds, while Allen posted a triple-double with 11 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists. Queen Alford led the Lady Mocs with 24 points, as well.