The Notre Dame Fighting Irish women’s basketball team pulled away from the Duke Blue Devils in the second half of a battle of Top 15 teams at Purcell Pavilion to prevail, 62-58.
Junior forward Brianna Turner had a double-double - 25 points and 12 rebounds - to lead the No. 8/9 Irish to their third consecutive victory. Blue Devils guard Lexie Brown had 22 points in a losing effort.
The Irish improve to 19-3 on the year, while the Blue Devils fall to 17-4.
Few teams have been more consistent in women's college basketball over the last decade than the Irish.
Despite the recent dominance, the Notre Dame women's team has not been able to win the National Championship since 2001. There were high hopes for the Fighting Irish after entering the season as the top ranked team in the nation, but the season as not gone exactly as planned. A recent loss to the Tennessee Volunteers sent Notre Dame down to eighth in the rankings, but they quickly got back on track with two easy wins in the last week.
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish have used an efficient offense to dominate games this season. That great offense was on display during the first half against Tennessee, but it completely disappeared in the second half. The Fighting Irish dominated early in the game to take a 13-point lead into the locker room at halftime. Tennessee tightened up the defense late in the game and held Notre Dame to only seven points in the fourth quarter. Forward Jaime Nared hit a tough jump shot with 10 seconds left on the clock to give the Volunteers a 71-69 win over Notre Dame. This is clearly a tough loss for the Fighting Irish, but Tennessee showed unbelievable heart on a night they honored late coach Pat Summit.
The sign of a great basketball team is rebounding after a tough loss, and that is exactly what Notre Dame has been able to do. They followed up the Tennessee loss with an easy road win over the Boston College Eagles. The Fighting Irish scored at will early in the game, which helped them survive a six-point fourth quarter in the 80-69 win. Three nights after defeating Boston College, Notre Dame traveled North Carolina to play the Tar Heels. The Fighting Irish had trouble scoring at times during the game, but they played one of their best defensive games of the season to get an easy 22-point win.
Last week the Irish players got a night out to take in some hockey before their game against Boston College. Their free night before the game happened to fit perfectly into the Bruins schedule.
Notre Dame is happy to get back to winning basketball games, but they can't be completely satisfied with their recent performance. They can get away with an inconsistent offense against bad teams, but it will get them beat by the top teams in the nation. If they do not get the offense back on track before Feb. 6, then they will have a hard time getting a win over the ninth ranked Louisville Cardinals.
After the game against Louisville, the Fighting Irish will have to wait until the last day of the regular season to play another tough game. The Florida State Seminoles will give Notre Dame their toughest test since they played the Connecticut Huskies in early December. This game may even decide the winner of the ACC regular season. Notre Dame has to use these two tough games to prepare for the NCAA tournament. If they are not able to fix their inconsistencies before the end of the season, then they will have no chance at the national championship.