Irish advance to Elite 8 once again
Published 9:29 am Monday, April 1, 2019
CHICAGO — For the 10th time in program history, the Notre Dame women’s basketball team is feeling elite.
The No. 1 Fighting Irish earned a dramatic 87-80 win over No. 4 Texas A&M on Saturday afternoon inside Wintrust Arena.
Arike Ogunbowale poured in a career-high 34 points on 14-of-26 shooting. The senior tallied 24 points in the second half, including 12 in the final quarter. Next, Jessica Shepard delivered yet another postseason double-double, this time recording 24 points and 14 rebounds.
Jackie Young came close to a double-double with 14 points and eight boards. Young tallied 10 crucial points in the fourth. Furthermore, Brianna Turner rounded out the double-digit scorers with 12 points and four blocks.
“I thought Gary Blair did a phenomenal job getting his team back to the Sweet 16. They had a whole new team built around Carter, who is just a phenomenal player. We struggled to guard her. Thought it was a really entertaining game to watch with a lot of big shots. Jessica Shepard was unstoppable down low with a double-double. Arike hit big shot, after big shot. I thought the steal and the layup late in the game sealed it,” said Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw.
How it happened
Notre Dame started 3-of-10 from the field before making six of its last eight to end the period. With six seconds left on the clock, Ogunbowale drove the length of the court before dishing off to Turner who beat the buzzer for the 21-18 lead.
Turner notched six points in the quarter, but Shepard led the Irish with 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting.
The Irish shot 9-of-18 again in the second, but it was the Aggies who edged the Irish in scoring this time, 24-21, tying the game at 42-all at the half.
Ogunbowale notched eight points in the quarter to bring her half total to 10. Meanwhile, Shepard continued to lead the Irish at the half with 15 points.
The Irish started the second half on an 8-0 run, but Texas A&M immediately countered with back-to-back treys to narrow it to 52-50.
Ogunbowale went on to make three of the team’s last four field goals, then tacked on two free throws, to give the Irish a 65-62 advantage heading into the fourth.
The Aggies started the final period on a 5-0 run to take the lead, but Young answered the call with back-to-back jumpers to regain the lead for the Irish.
Later tied at 69-all, Ogunbowale connected on a momentous three, then followed that with an and-one with 3:14 left, giving Notre Dame a 79-71 lead.
Carter then hit her seventh and final three of the game (finished with a game high 35 points), cutting the deficit to five before Young and Ogunbowale came up big on back-to-back possessions, giving the Irish their largest lead of the game, up 83-74.
The pair each tacked on two free throws to ice the game, as the duo combined for all 22 of the team’s fourth quarter points.
• The Irish earned program win No. 997.
• The five Irish starters have now amassed 9,992 combined career points, which stands as the most in Division I women’s basketball all-time.
• Notre Dame now boasts 65 NCAA Tournament wins, which ties Louisiana Tech for the fourth most all-time.
• The Irish have advanced to their 10th Elite Eight.
• Notre Dame and UConn are the only two programs to reach the Elite Eight eight times over the last nine years.
• Turner is closing in on 2,000 points. The Texas native scored 12 points on Saturday, bring her career total to 1,976.
• Turner, the new program rebound record holder, is now looking to break another Ruth Riley record at Notre Dame, this time in blocks. Riley notched 370 in her storied career and Turner now boasts 363.
• Ogunbowale recorded a career-high 34 points on a career best 14 made field goals.
• With 34 points, Ogunbowale earned her 24th game with 20-plus points. Last season, Ogunbowale broke the Notre Dame record with 25 of such games.
• Ogunbowale now boasts 57 career games with 20-plus points, which surpasses Beth Morgan (56) for the Notre Dame record.
• Ogunbowale notched her sixth game of 30-plus points and 10th of her career — both continue to break the single season and career records.
• Shepard earned her 16th double-double on the year and eighth over the last 11 games. The 16 in a single season ties Katryna Gaither for second place, with Natalie Achonwa holding the top spot with 19. Her 31 career double-doubles ranks fifth all-time already in just two seasons with the Irish.
• Shepard has recorded 20 straight games with double-digit points. Her career high is 21.
The No. 1 Irish will look to punch its ninth ticket to the Final Four when they square off with No. 2 Stanford in Monday’s Regional Final at Wintrust Arena. Tip is set for 9 p.m., airing live on ESPN2.