Stanford swats Notre Dame women's basketball for trip to Final Four

Ken Klimek
Tribune Correspondent

LEXINGTON, Ky. — One more basket.

One more defensive stop.

One more solid basketball play

Had the Notre Dame women's team manufactured any one of the above in the last minute of play, it would be making travel plans to the NCAA Final Four this weekend.

Instead, the Irish are left to languish with the empty feeling of a 76-75 loss to Stanford in the regional championship game at Rupp Arena. It was the second straight year, Stanford ended the Irish season in the regional.

Squandering a 16-point third quarter lead, the Irish shooting touch went stone cold in the second half — 5 for 19 in the third quarter and 11 for 33 in the second half.

“We lost it in the third quarter,'' Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw said. "I don't know what happened. We just couldn't score, and we couldn't defend. I think the more they got on a run, the tighter we got on offense. That was a killer.”

Stanford, 32-5, outscored Notre Dame 24-12 in the third period, grabbing its first lead since the opening minute of the second quarter when Brittany McPhee scored with 8:17 remaining in the game

Both teams traded baskets the rest of the way until Alanna Smith scored for the Cardinal for their 76-75 lead with 23 seconds remaining.

After a timeout, Notre Dame worked the ball until Lindsay Allen missed a jumper in the lane. But the ball went out of bounds to the Irish with 2.3 seconds remaining. Following another timeout, Notre Dame inbounded under its own basket to Arike Ogunbowale near the edge of the lane, about 12 feet away. She took a dribble toward the bucket before her shot was blocked by Erica McCall.

“It was a screen for Arike,” said McGraw of the final play. “She was wide open (outside the lane), and she probably could have shot it. That's hindsight. We got her open. She got the ball and she made her decision. I thought it was a good one.”

Notre Dame, playing again without low-post star Brianna Turner because of the season-ending knee injury suffered in last week's win over Purdue, went on an explosive 18-0 run to open the second quarter.

Trailing 24-22 Notre Dame blazed to a 40-27 lead and was up 45-32 at halftime. Ogunbowale, selected as the regional's most outstanding player, had 12 of her team-high 25 points in that second quarter.

The Irish stretched the lead to 16 on a Marina Mabrey basket to open the third quarter, but it went downhill for Notre Dame after that.

“It took us a while to get going, but then when we got going, we were charging down that stretch and came across that finish line,'' said Cardinal coach Tara VanDerveer. "Great plays by Karlie (Samuelson knocking down shots). Huge second half defensively and offensively by Brit (McPhee). I thought we made some really tough shots. When we needed our defense to step up, we stepped up really well.”

Notre Dame's season ends at 33-4 record. The loss also ends the career of senior Allen, who started her 149th game, every one since the first one of her freshman season.

Holding back tears, Allen described the time she has had at Notre Dame.

“These four years here have been something beyond my imagination,” she said. “These four years have been the best years of my life. I've had some of the greatest teammates ever. It's just been a really great experience to play here at this elite level and play for coach McGraw.”

Allen, along with Ogunbowale and Mabrey were selected to the all-tourney team, and were joined by Karlie Samuelson and Brittany McPhee of Stanford.

Mabrey, who finished with 20 points, tried to take over the game in the final quarter when the Irish were struggling. She had eight points and took over for Ogunbowale who was blanketed by McPhee.

Allen did the same, scoring the last four Irish points and giving them their last lead at 75-74.

McGraw refused to use Turner's absence as an excuse for the loss.

“I don't think that's where we lost the game,'' she said. "I think we lost it on the 3-point line (6-for-21, 28.5 percent). We talked about it — do we need to go big? But I mean I thought we did a really good job on McCall (nine points). So it was more the wings and the guards.”

Stanford made 12 3-pointers, shot 47.5 percent for the game (17 of 29 in the final two quarters) and was led by McPhee's 27 points. Samuelson and Smith added 15 each for Stanford.

Stanford had 33 rebonds and ND had 32. Allen led Notre Dame with 10 boards to go with her 10 points and six assists.

The Irish held Stanford scoreless for seven minutes in the second quarter, but simply ran out of gas late in the game.

STANFORD (32-5): Kaylee Johnson 0-0 1-2 1, Erica McCall 4-10 1-2 9, Brittany McPhee 10-17 2-2 27, Briana Roberson 2-5 2-2 7, Karlie Samuelson 5-9 0-0 15, Nadia Fingall 0-1 0-0 0, Alanna Smith 7-10 0-0 15, Dijonia Carrington 0-3 0-0 0, Marta Sniezek 0-4 2-2 2, Totals 28-59 8-10 76.

NOTRE DAME (33-4): Erin Boley 3-8 0-0 9, Kathryn Westbeld 3-6 1-2 7, Lindsay Allen 3-9 4-6 10, Marina Mabrey 9-18 0-0 20, Arike Ogunbowale 9-16 6-6 25, Kristina Nelson 0-1 0-0 0, Jackie Young 2-7 0-1 4, Totals 29-65 11-15 75.

Stanford 24 7 24 21 —76

Notre Dame 22 23 12 18 —75

3-Point Goals-Stanford 12-26 (McCall 0-1, McPhee 5-9, Roberson 1-4, Samuelson 5-8, Smith 1-1, Carrington 0-2, Sniezek 0-1), Notre Dame 6-21 (Boley 3-7, Westbeld 0-1, Mabrey 2-8, Ogunbowale 1-3, Young 0-2). Assists-Stanford 22 (Sniezek 8), Notre Dame 11 (Allen 6). Fouled Out-None. Rebounds-Stanford 33 (McCall 11), Notre Dame 32 (Allen 10). Total Fouls-Stanford 12, Notre Dame 12. A-2,527.

Stanford's Alanna Smith (11) battles Notre Dame's Jackie Young (5) for the ball during the first half of a regional final of the NCAA women's college basketball tournament, Sunday, March. 26, 2017, in Lexington, Ky. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)