No. 3 Notre Dame runs away from Valparaiso
VALPARAISO, Ind. (AP) Coach Muffet McGraw called it a ''statement game'' for freshman guard Marina Mabrey.
She finished with 18 points, 10 assists - both career bests - and a school-record 12 steals for the fifth triple-double in Notre Dame history to help the No. 3-ranked Irish to a 110-54 rout of Valparaiso on Monday night.
The last Notre Dame player with a triple-double was Skylar Diggins on Feb. 24, 2013.
''That was a statement game from Marina,'' McGraw said. ''She came into the game wanting to prove that she was ready to play and could defend. We had a talk about that yesterday. She made a case for herself. It was just a great game on both sides of the floor.
''She did about everything. She showed what she's capable of doing.''
Notre Dame (4-0) converted 32 Valparaiso turnovers into 51 points in the rout.
Thanks largely to eight steals and 14 points by Mabrey in the first half, the Irish led the Crusaders (0-2) 53-18 at the break. Notre Dame converted takeaways into 27 points in the first half alone.
Notre Dame used a 16-0 run in the first quarter to pull away from the Crusaders. Valparaiso went 5:16 without a point.
Meredith Hamlet led Valparaiso with 10 points and Jasmyn Walker had nine.
Mabrey agreed with her coach's assessment on her play.
''The previous games I wasn't showing what I could do,'' Mabrey said. ''It helped me a lot to show my true talent.''
Mabrey, who did not start, continually jumped into passing lanes and created fast-break chances. She was also adept at feeding the interior.
McGraw said she was pleased to see her team get more assists in the second half - 17 of the game total of 25 - and that led to even more points in the paint. The bigger, more-experienced Irish led 72-10 in points inside against a young Valparaiso team.
''We were trying to look inside and our jobs did a pretty good job,'' McGraw said.
Mabrey accomplished her triple-double with Diggins in the audience. The former Irish standout visited the team in the locker room.
''She set a great example for a lot of women who play basketball,'' Mabrey said of Diggins, who had 17 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists and her second and final Irish triple-double and is now in the WNBA. ''Watching her play over the past years was really fun to watch and a lot of players aspire to play like her. It was awesome to do one of the million things she has done.''
The Crusaders started three freshmen - Hamelt, Hannah Schaub and Amber Lindfors.
''We didn't come out as aggressive as we wanted to,'' Valparaiso coach Tracey Dorow. ''I don't know if we were nervous or what.
''They are a very good ball club and there's a reason they are ranked No. 3. I wouldn't be surprised if they won it all this year.''
But Dorow did see some positives.
''We have prepared for the very best,'' Dorow said. ''If we can play with the fire we played with in the third period and even the fourth and carry it into upcoming games, we should reap a lot of benefits from that.''
Playing within an hour of home and so close to Chicago, McGraw said the game gave fans, especially, high schoolers, a chance ''see some of the best players in the country live.''
Notre Dame: The Irish now lead the all-time series against Valpo 26-0. The Crusaders are Notre Dame's oldest rival with the northern Indiana school just about 45 miles west. The first-ever Notre Dame women's basketball game was against Valparaiso Dec. 3, 1977. The Irish won 48-41.
Valparaiso: The Crusaders are 1-39 all-time against ranked opponents. The lone victory came against Purdue Dec. 10, 2008.
Notre Dame plays Denver in the Junkaroo Jam in Freeport, Bahamas, on Friday.
Valparaiso plays San Diego in USD-Courtyard San Diego Central Classic on Friday.