Durham, NC — No, it was not a Patriots-Eagles matchup that drew the attention of fans, but an epic battle that fell on Super Bowl Sunday between the No. 5 Notre Dame Fighting Irish and No. 19 Duke Blue Devils.
Despite home court advantage and tangible momentum, the Blue Devils (18-6, 7-4 ACC) could not fight their way out of this one, as the short-handed Fighting Irish (22-2, 10-1 ACC) took home a 72-54 victory.
In the first half, both teams allowed their fair share of turnovers, however, it was Notre Dame that capitalized on them.
Duke lit up from beyond the ark, as Rebecca Greenwell had 9 points in the first half (12 overall) and the team shot 13-of-35 from the field. Lexie Brown (16 pts) created sparks on the court but could not rally her entire team to contribute, a disappointing trend that continued throughout the match.
The Fighting Irish were doing just that, fighting. A lack of bench presence forced head coach Muffet McGraw to play just six players. Not to mention, starting forward Kathryn Westbeld played with a swollen black eye, and had been unable to practice prior to Sunday's matchup.
“It’s been a battle of mental toughness. We are in tremendous shape,” said Coach McGraw in regards to her team’s stamina and ability to get the job done while only playing with six players. “There are periods of resting, particularly on defense but they want to play and so they can figure it out.”
On the other hand, Duke, with freedom to substitute as they pleased, found early foul trouble with Jade Williams and suffered from an injured Haley Gorecki not being able to play at 100%.
At halftime Duke welcomed back old players and coaches, recognizing the Blue Devils' 2006 team that reached the NCAA Final Four 10 years ago. Players such as Jessica Foley and Mistie Bass were in attendance. They also honored the retirement of jersey numbers #20 Alana Beard, #10 Lindsey Harding and #1 Elizabeth Williams.
Entering the second half, Notre Dame remained in control. Arike Ogunbowale quite often found Jessica Shepard under the basket. Shepard was dominant with 10 total rebounds and 12 points on the night. Notre Dame took advantage of fouls and turnovers, shooting 63 percent in the third, and leading by as much as 11.
Duke, on the other hand, shot 43 percent in the quarter and couldn't force the Fighting Irish to make mistakes on defense.
In the fourth frame, the Blue Devils ability to come back dwindled, as did their chance at cutting down the Notre Dame lead. Instead of having a balanced attack, Duke had a strong reliance on the effort of Brown and Greenwell, while Notre Dame used all forces.
Stepping up big for the Irish was Marina Mabrey, who had 18 points on the night.
“We are used to playing with a short bench, we’ve been in this position before so we just have to play smarter and get stops,” said Mabrey.
Duke head coach Joanne McCallie paid respect to Notre Dame's resilience.
“They played all four quarters,” said McCallie. “Points on turnovers and fast break points are critical spots for us to look at as things that we’d like to control. We can’t let people score on transitions it too easy.”
“Notre Dame has been around the block quite a bit and we are going to have learn from this and move forward."
Duke guard Rebecca Greenwell, who finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds, was disappointed in her team's inability to get the win.
“We take this one to heart, this one hurts,” Greenwell said.
Duke will take on Wake Forest in their next conference matchup, while Notre Dame will take on Georgia Tech at home, where they remain undefeated in the Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center.
FINAL: #5 Notre Dame 72 #19 Duke 54Posted by Swish Appeal Staff on Sunday, February 4, 2018