March Madness is just around the corner, and now that the Super Bowl is behind us and Peyton Manning has earned his second ring, the eyes of sports fans turn from the gridiron to the parquet floor. However, the NFL highlight reels have not been enough to distract Notre Dame basketball fans from celebrating the victories this season by both the women’s and the men’s teams.
The Irish women are in a familiar yet comfortable situation: first in the ACC and third in the nation. Twenty-three wins and one loss (to Connecticut) is not a bad record considering only five games remain before the conference championship tournament.
On offense, the women have dominated their opponents, with 1,916 total points and an average deficit of 19.5 points per game. Madison Cable, a graduate student starting at guard, leads the Irish this season with 334 overall points, averaging 13.9 points per game. She has a solid shooting percentage from the floor at 51.3 percent. Junior guard Lindsay Allen has provided Cable and the other shooters with quality support. Allen has 131 assists and 222 points this season, averaging 5.5 assists and 9.3 points a game.
The defense has contributed substantially to each victory. With 230 steals, 116 blocks, and 933 rebounds, the Irish are finding ways to regain and retain possession of the ball. Sophomore forward Brianna Turner is having a tremendous year with 60 total blocks and an average of 3.33 blocks a game. Kathryn Westbeld, also a sophomore starting forward, is averaging 6.2 rebounds per game with a total of 148 rebounds on the season.
The most recent game against Louisville was a huge win for the Irish. Although it is perhaps not representative of a season in which Notre Dame has been dominating opponents, the comeback against Louisville put Notre Dame atop the ACC rankings and sustained what is now a 16-game win streak. The final score was 66-61 in favor of the Irish thanks to a fourth quarter rally led by Cable, who drained the go-ahead three-pointer.
Following the game, Irish head coach Muffet McGraw explained what her team did to earn the victory. “Well, we were able to go inside.” She said. “I thought Bree really played well, and then Madison Cable hits the big three, I mean that was huge, and then defensively, I thought we got a lot of stops. We gave up too many offensive rebounds, but got some stops.”
The Notre Dame Women’s Basketball team next faces Miami on Sunday, February 14. The last five games of the regular season are opportunities for the Irish to tune up their game and prepare for the ACC tournament.
For the Irish men, the season is not going quite as well. The men have a 16-7 record, are ranked fifth in the ACC, and are unranked nationally. However, after two huge conference wins, one against North Carolina last Saturday and a follow-up victory against Clemson on Monday, the Irish stand a chance to move up in the conference standings.
Against North Carolina, a tremendous performance by the Irish allowed them to take the lead during the last few minutes of the game. North Carolina missed a three-pointer in the final seconds of the game to the delight of the crowd. Notre Dame held on for the victory and the fans stormed the court.
Amidst the excitement following the game, sophomore Bonzie Colson shared some thoughts with the media. “Heart, passion, love for the game, that’s what it comes down to, man,” he said. “We wanted it more than people expect, and we proved it tonight.”
Senior forward Zach Auguste admitted the significance of the win against North Carolina, but he made clear that losing focus would not be an option. “It’s another great night for us, and a great night for the program,” he said. “Every game the rest of the season is going to be a tough one … We gotta continue to work hard and bring this day in and day out.”
There remain only four games of regular season play for the Irish, and the next matchup is not an easy one. This weekend the Irish take on the Louisville Cardinals, but a win is no guarantee, especially after all of the excitement that has continued since the nail-biter against the Tar Heels. Regardless of the ACC standings, the Irish men are looking to stand a chance in the NCAA tournament. After all, March Madness is just around the corner.
James Pratt is a junior political science major. He fashions parquet floors out of rich mahogany in his spare time. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.