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Monday, Feb 25, 2019 at 11:30 pm

No. 4 Notre Dame Dominates Down Low in Thumping of No. 17 Syracuse

By A.J. Fabbri

CitrusTV Women’s Basketball Reporter

Early in the third quarter, Notre Dame point guard Jackie Young lobbed what looked like an errant pass towards the baseline. But senior fowrard Jessica Shepard soared out of nowhere and back tapped the ball to her fellow forward Brianna Turner, who laid the ball in with ease. The Carrier Dome harmonized in a collective “Wow.”

The bucket was one of many Irish layups, as No. 4 Notre Dame (26-3, 13-2 Atlantic Coast) throttled No. 17 Syracuse (20-7, 9-5 ACC) 98-68 in the Carrier Dome Monday night.

Shepard, Turner and the rest of the Irish terrorized the Orange down low, outscoring SU 60-40 in the paint.

“That’s where our strength lies,” legendary Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw said. “We like to get the inside game going so we can get the zone to suck in a little bit and we can shoot some jumpers.”

Syracuse has struggled all year against superior post players. Emese Hof of Miami burned the SU zone for 21 back in January. Nearly two weeks ago, NC State’s Elissa Cunane dropped 22 in the Carrier Dome. Syracuse lost both contests.

“It’s a group effort on that,” SU head coach Quentin Hillsman said. “We gotta do a better job of getting some ball pressure… we have to battle inside.”

The Orange kept pace with the Irish early. Miranda Drummond, playing in what could have been her last game in the Carrier Dome, drilled two first quarter threes to pace SU. The Orange trailed 26-23 with just over eight minutes to go in the first half.

“That’s nothing. That’s two possessions right there. We were in it,” said point guard Tiana Mangakahia.

From that point on, the Irish embarked on a decisive 16-0 run. Mangakahia, SU’s leading scorer, was sidelined with two fouls during the Notre Dame run. All seven field goals of the run were layups. The other two points were free throws.

“We weren’t focused. I feel like some of us maybe let our heads down a little bit,” Drummond said about SU’s mentality during the run. The Irish led 46-27 at the half.

Notre Dame continued to hammer the Orange inside the paint to open the second half. Mikayla Vaughn’s layup made it 64-34 midway through the third quarter. It was the biggest lead of the night for the Irish.

Mangakahia’s first points of the game came with 2:48 left in the third quarter. From there, SU momentarily breathed life into the Carrier Dome, embarking on a 10-0 run. The Orange finally tightened up on defense, forcing four Irish turnovers. While the 7,568 in attendance erupted, SU had dug itself a hole too deep to crawl out of. Notre Dame led by 22 at the end of the third quarter.

With such a wide margin so late in the game, SU was forced to play man to man defense for the first time this year in order to try and force Notre Dame turnovers. The strategy didn’t pay off, as Turner netted three buckets to keep the Orange at bay for the remainder of the game.

Arike Ogunbowale, the hero from last year’s Final Four, torched SU with 24 to lead all scorers. Turner finished with 22 points and eight rebounds. Shepard posted a double-double with 17 points and 13 boards. Marina Mabrey also added 17 and eight assists. Jackie Young was two rebounds shy of a triple double with 12 points, ten assists and eight rebounds.

Mangakahia finished with 17 points and seven assists. Drummond was 4 of 7 from deep for 14 points in total. Digna Strautmane and Maeva Djaldi-Tabdi posted ten points each. SU was 6-of-15 from the free throw line.

The 7,568 fans in the Carrier Dome fell short of SU’s goal to break the previous attendance record of 11,021. The record was set two years ago the last time Notre Dame came to Central New York.

Syracuse has a quick turnaround, as they head south to Tallahassee on Thursday to take on No. 22 Florida State in their penultimate regular season game.

ajfabbri@syr.edu |@armand_john