No. 6 Notre Dame storms back for tourney title behind MVP Jackie Young
Storming back with authority from a 12-point, second-quarter deficit, Notre Dame knocked off an opponent rated No. 2 or higher in a major poll for the first time in nearly five years Sunday night,
Tournament MVP Jackie Young had 22 points and a game-high 10 rebounds as the No. 6 Irish beat South Carolina, 92-85, in the Gulf Coast Showcase women’s basketball title game at Germain Arena in Estero, Fla.
Arike Ogunbowale scored 23 points and had five assists as the Irish improved to 6-0 with their fifth straight win away from home.
All-American A’ja Wilson poured in 29 of her game-high 34 points in the second half for the defending national champion Gamecocks (6-1), who went into the game ranked No. 2 in the coaches’ poll and No. 3 by the Associated Press. Wilson also had nine rebounds, five assists and three blocks.
ND’s last win over a No. 1 or 2 team came on Jan. 5, 2013, when the visiting Irish conquered top-ranked Connecticut, 73-72. The Irish had lost five straight to No. 1 or No. 2 teams since then.
Notre Dame, scoring often inside and often in transition, owned its largest lead at 80-61 with 6:34 remaining, before Carolina mounted its own rally late, aided by several missed Irish free throws down the stretch.
Marina Mabrey scored 12 points for ND and Kathryn Westbeld (nine) and Kristina Nelson (eight) combined for 17 off the bench.
Irish coach Muffet McGraw improved to 4-0 in her career against 2020 U.S. Olympic coach Dawn Staley, three of those wins coming over South Carolina and the other when Staley was at Temple.
Notre Dame, which also fell behind 8-0 in the opening minutes, trailed 30-18 a minute into the second quarter before rallying for a 41-38 lead at the half — triggered in large part by the inspiring play of Nelson off the bench.
The fifth-year senior scored six inside points against Carolina’s more ballyhooed bigs, coaxed a pair of charging fouls on the Gamecocks and forced another turnover in the period.
The Irish outscored Carolina 12-3 on transition points in the opening half and got 13 points from their bench to two for the Gamecocks.
Notre Dame plays the sixth of seven straight games away from home Wednesday when it visits No. 25 Michigan (4-1). That’s followed by next Sunday’s 4 p.m. battle against No. 1 Connecticut (5-0) in Hartford.
Both of those contests will be nationally televised, with the 6 p.m. matchup against Michigan on the Big Ten Network and the 4 p.m. game against UConn on ESPN.
The showdown with the Huskies will also be McGraw’s 1,000th career game at Notre Dame.
She’s (771-227) in her 31st year with the Irish.