ACC Recap: Notre Dame impresses against UNC
Niele Ivey and the Fighting Irish earn an important ranked win
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The ACC finally made it through a week without a Top 25 matchup getting postponed, and most of the games were as exciting as promised. Duke and North Carolina both lost without key players, and Boston College continued to show that they are a team who will put up a fight against anyone.
This week was just an appetizer for tomorrow, when No. 3 Louisville will take on No. 4 NC State to see who will be crowned the midseason queens of the ACC. It is a massive game with potential 1-seed implications, and comes at a time when neither team has lost in over a month. Whether you are even a fan of women’s college basketball or not, this game is poised to be a can’t-miss matchup for any basketball lover.
I had the pleasure of joining Megan Gauer on the Her Hoop Stats Unplugged Podcast to talk about the ACC, and here is a more in-depth breakdown of the big games in the conference from this past week.
Louisville - It happened against UConn, it happened against Georgia Tech, and it happened on Sunday against Boston College, Louisville cannot seem to score in the first quarter. The worst part for the Cardinals is that there is no easy fix. The energy out of the gate was evident on the defensive side of the ball, their shots just would not fall early in the game.
Boston College entered the second quarter with a 20-10 lead that quickly turned into a seven-point halftime deficit, as Louisville’s suffocating defense, led by five steals in the period from Emily Engstler, held the Eagles to just five points. But the Cardinals cannot keep getting away with this. If they want to compete with NC State tomorrow, they will need to play four quarters of consistent basketball.
One encouraging aspect of the early game struggles is that the Louisville bench has been getting more valuable playing time. Jeff Walz had the second unit in for most of the second-quarter comeback, and a deep Cardinals team is a scary thought for the rest of the country.
Notre Dame - The biggest knock on the Fighting Irish was that they only had one good win on their resume, so they had to capitalize on their opportunity against North Carolina at home. The best part about this Notre Dame team is how many options they have on offense. Only 10 teams can say that they have five players averaging more than 10 points a game, and it allows their offense to be diverse and play to matchup strengths.
Against the Tar Heels it was Dara Mabrey who stepped up, scoring 24 points with six three-pointers. Even though Olivia Miles only had seven points, she was an excellent playmaker and finished with eight assists. Maya Dodson had 10 points and 11 boards but more importantly shut down Alyssa Ustby in the paint.
NC State - The Wolfpack are a top five team in the country, and Duke knew this going into their ranked matchup on Sunday. Naturally, one would expect the Blue Devils to try and break up the offensive rhythm of NC State, and that assumption was incorrect.
Duke applied so little defensive pressure that the Wolfpack could methodically get into their sets every possession, the ball into Elissa Cunane, and play their cleanest game of the season despite their opponent being ranked 16th in the country. NC State finished the game with only four turnovers, their fewest since 2011, and the lowest mark in ACC play for any team since 2017 (Notre Dame vs. Louisville).
Twelve players scored for the Wolfpack, and they look like a well-oiled machine coming into tomorrow’s clash with Louisville.
ACC Blunders of the Week:
A few teams tried really hard to get featured here this week, including Duke who lost again to Virginia Tech. Wake Forest continued their downward slide, giving Pittsburgh their first conference victory of the year. However those performances were more expected than the product Georgia Tech put out this week.
First the Yellow Jackets snuck out a win over Florida State that the Seminoles frankly threw away in the last few minutes. Then, Georgia Tech fell to Miami, putting up 45 points in the process. This is certainly not a reason to count them out of contention in the ACC yet, but of course does not help in the standings. One of their biggest mistakes in the game against Miami was over-passing, and the Yellow Jackets could benefit from a little more selfishness from their star players in crunch time.
Important Game Tracker:
No. 3 Louisville @ No. 4 NC State, Thursday January 20th
No. 20 North Carolina @ No. 18 Georgia Tech, Sunday January 23rd
Virginia Tech @ No. 4 NC State, Sunday January 23rd
James’ Weekly ACC Power Rankings:
NC State (16-2)
Notre Dame (13-3) ⇧3
North Carolina (14-2) ⇩1
Virginia Tech (12-4) ⇧2
Duke (11-4) ⇩1
Georgia Tech (13-4) ⇩3
Boston College (12-5)
Miami (9-5) ⇧4
Wake Forest (12-6) ⇩1
Florida State (7-7) ⇩1
Syracuse (8-8) ⇩1
Pittsburgh (10-7) ⇩1