<
>

Shepard, big run lift No. 1 Notre Dame past Hokies, 80-51

BLACKSBURG, Va. -- A fast start for Virginia Tech had No. 1 Notre Dame back on its heels, but only briefly.

Before the second quarter was over, the Fighting Irish put together a 24-1 run, leaving a six-point deficit a distant memory in an 80-51 victory against the Hokies on Wednesday night.

"They came out and gave us a knockout punch," Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. "Fortunately we took it and gave them one of our own."

Jessica Shepard had 20 points and 11 rebounds, Arike Ogunbowale had 19 points and Marina Mabrey scored 15 for the Fighting Irish (17-1, 5-0 Atlantic Coast Conference). Notre Dame trailed 24-18 before Mabrey sparked the run with her third 3-pointer of the first half. The burst took just six minutes and ended with Notre Dame ahead 42-25 and on its way to its 10th consecutive victory.

McGraw smiled a knowing smile when asked if she knew a run was coming. On a team with five players averaging at least 13.2 points, it's highly unlikely all five will have an off-night together.

"You know that we are a powerful offensive team and we have a lot of weapons," she said. "Really any of the five are capable of having a big game for us. It's just a question of who it's going to be."

Virginia Tech (13-4, 0-4) responded to the run by scoring nine straight points to bring the crowd back into it, but it was 44-34 at the half. Notre Dame pulled away thereafter, dropping the Hokies to 1-47 in program history against teams in the top five.

"I was disappointed in our fight," Hokies coach Kenny Brooks said. "As soon as they took the lead it was like somebody took the air out of the balloon."

Taylor Emery had 15 points and Trinity Baptiste had 11 points and 15 rebounds for Virginia Tech.

SISTER ACT

The game marked the first on-court matchup of sisters Marina Mabrey, a Notre Dame senior, and Dara Mabrey, a freshman for the Hokies. The pair played together in 2015 at Manasquan High School in Belmar, New Jersey, but hadn't ever gone head-to-head before.

As with her team, Marina had the decided upper hand, scoring 15 points while Dara missed 12 of 14 shots and scored five.

"Just being able to experience that at such a high level in the ACC -- a lot of people don't get to do that, so just cherishing this moment," Marina said of the matchup. "It probably won't happen again."

The two spent a lot of time together the night before the game, but there was no smack talk, before, during or after, Marina said.

"We just talked about normal stuff like offenses and defenses," she said. "Things like that. We really were just happy to see each other."

Virginia Tech did not make Dara available after the game.

BIG PICTURE

Notre Dame: The Irish have five players averaging at least 13.2 points and apart from two baskets by Danielle Patterson, the five accounted for all the points during the big run. Ogunbowale had seven, Mabrey five, Shepard two, Brianna Turner four and Jackie Young two.

Virginia Tech: The loss continued conference woes for the Hokies, who won their first 13 and are 56-31 under third-year coach Kenny Brooks, but just 10-26 in league play. In his first season, Virginia Tech won its first 15, then was 4-12 in the league. Last season, they started 11-2, then lost 10 of 16 ACC contests. Their first three ACC losses this season came by a total of 13 points.

"It's very frustrating," said Regan Magarity, who finished with 11 points and eight rebounds. "But I think as a team, we know we have games coming up that we can and should win."

HE SAID IT

"They're fun to watch. I think there's 11 teams in the WNBA and they're the 12th." -- Virginia Tech coach Kenny Brooks.

UP NEXT

Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish return home on Sunday to face Boston College.

Virginia Tech: It doesn't get much easier for the Hokies, who play at No. 8 North Carolina State on Sunday.