Sights and sounds from the ACC tournament championship


“When you beat ranked teams by as much as we did this weekend, I think it sends a great message. We want to try to set a tone.” – Muffet McGraw

GREENSBORO, NC — Going into the 2019 ACC Women’s Basketball Tournament, two teams reigned supreme as Co-ACC regular season champions: Louisville and Notre Dame. Louisville ranked third nationally, while Notre Dame sat in the fourth spot. However, after five days of competition from the 15-team elite conference, Notre Dame defeated Louisville 99-79, securing their fifth ACC Women’s Basketball tournament title in six years.

“Coming into the game, we knew we had a mismatch,” Jessica Shepard said.  Louisville entered the championship round visibly short-handed. Not only did Arica Carter, the senior starter who averages 27.1 minutes per game and is Louisville’s best defensive rebounder (according to Coach Jeff Walz) not suit up due to a precautionary measure for a left ankle injury, but Sam Fuehring, Louisville’s standout post player, was only able to play a total of 12 minutes.

(Photo by William Howard/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
(Photo by William Howard/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

Fuehring suffered a broken nose from a hard foul from the NC State Wolfpack in the semifinals. But, in early minutes against the Irish, she tripped under the basket and had to be escorted into the locker room.  Glimpses of hope shined in the second half when she tried to return, but she ultimately couldn’t contribute much.

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“I talked to [Fuehring] before we started the third quarter,” Coach Walz said in the postgame press conference. “I said, ‘if you’re going to go out there, you can’t limp.’ And all in all, this isn’t…our major goal that we’re trying to get to. And the last thing I wanted for  her to go out there and try to continue to fight through it and then all of a sudden [have] a Grade One sprained ankle turn into a Grade Three [causing her to be] out three weeks.”

Notre Dame’s Shepard, along with Jessica Turner, combined for 50 points and 20 rebounds. Louisville’s injuries caused them to implement a four-guard lineup, leaving one lone big in the post.  Play after play, the Irish guards looked to the post and took advantage of the high-to-low action.  Notre Dame had a 72-40 advantage in the paint.

Rebounding was also a major factor in scoring. The Cards simply did not have enough size or depth with the two starters unavailable and got out-rebounded 44 to 29.  This affected second chance points (28-17) and ultimately led to the downward spiral of the Red.

Notre Dame’s Jackie Young received 2019 ACC Tournament MVP. Young got a double-double with 21 points and 10 rebounds, contributing so much on both ends of the court. Louisville’s Asia Durr was held to 15 points, clearly below her average. The two-time ACC Player of the Year took some hard non-calls throughout the game and created the best she could for her team, but Louisville’s overall 48.5 percent shooting was not enough to take down their rival. “We just have to learn from it and continue to push forward,” Durr said.

The Cards, in the first half, had good shot selection, but finishing was a struggle.  Notre Dame simply kept utilizing the post and ran Louisville tired as the minutes continued. Louisville communicated with High Post Hoops yesterday that rest and body maintenance was the focus in preparing for today’s matchup, but the wear and tear was visible.  Notre Dame simply had a numbers advantage.

“We’re right where we should be,” Coach McGraw said. “Last year it was just so fun being the underdog. But this year, we have the big targets on our back. It will be different heading into the [NCAA] tournament,”

Upon the conclusion of regular season, analysts are predicting up to nine ACC teams potentially making the NCAA Tournament.  Clemson has the biggest program turnaround under the direction of first-year head coach, Amanda Butler, who won ACC Coach of the Year.  Danielle Edwards had a highly efficient game against NC State and Aliyah Collier had a performance giving her ACC All-Tournament Second Team recognition.

Speaking of the Wolfpack, they had a historic year, which placed them in the top 10 the majority of the season, despite three season-ending injuries.  NC State will advance to the NCAA again under the guidance of Coach Wes Moore and team leader Kiara Leslie, but also the outstanding freshman Elissa Cunane. Cunane received honors of ACC All-Tournament First Team.  Rounding out the All-ACC Tournament Team roster is Syracuse’s Tiana Mangakahia (First Team), Virginia Tech’s Taylor Emery (Second Team) and UNC’s Paris Kea (Second Team).  Selection Monday will be broadcast on ESPN on March 18.

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