Notre Dame loses G Lili Thompson for season, then dodges upset by Miami

Anthony Anderson
Tribune Correspondent

SOUTH BEND — On a night when the ugliness of Arike Ogunbowale’s field-goal shooting was out-uglied only by the news that was revealed just a couple hours before the game, Ogunbowale still stepped up beautifully down the stretch and helped save Notre Dame from its first-ever Atlantic Coast Conference home loss.

Surviving a spirited upset bid by Miami, Notre Dame rallied to escape with an 83-76 women’s basketball victory Thursday at Purcell Pavilion.

The win by the Irish (14-1, 3-0) came after the university announced that senior point guard Lili Thompson will miss the rest of the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered in her right knee Sunday at Wake Forest.

Marina Mabrey had 21 points and seven assists, and Ogunbowale poured in 12 of her 20 points during the fourth quarter as Notre Dame won its first game since being reduced to just seven scholarship players by Thompson’s injury.

Ogunbowale missed 13 straight shots to stand 1-of-14 from the field by early in the fourth quarter, but she got a putback basket and drew a foul on that 13th miss, converting it into a three-point play for a 62-57 Irish lead.

The junior wound up 4-of-17 from the field and 12-of-13 at the line to go with six rebounds, four assists and two steals.

The game was tied at 55 through three quarters before the Irish finally took control in the fourth. They led by seven on five occasions over the final four minutes and by nine in the closing seconds.

The Hurricanes (11-4, 1-1) bolted to a 16-5 lead early.

ND bounced back for a 40-36 advantage by halftime, but Miami led by as many as three points in a third quarter featuring seven lead changes.

The Irish went up for good on a pair of Ogunbowale free throws at the 8:08 mark of the closing quarter to make it 59-57.

Thompson’s injury marks the fourth Notre Dame player since last March to suffer an ACL tear as she joins Brianna Turner, Mychal Johnson and Mikayla Vaughn on the sideline.

“I know this team is mentally tough and we will band together through this challenge and persevere,” coach Muffet McGraw said in the university’s news release before the game.

“It’s certainly an unprecedented situation in my career,” McGraw continued of four players being out at once with the same injury. “We wish Lili a speedy recovery.”

Thompson had been the Irish’s primary ball-handler when on the court and was leading the team in both assists (4.6) and steals (1.6) per game.

A graduate transfer who played three seasons and twice earned All-Pac-12 honors at Stanford before sitting out last season, Thompson was also averaging 5.9 points and 3.5 rebounds in 27.1 minutes.

The Texas native had started the first six games of the season and was typically the first player off the bench over the next eight.

Without her, Ogunbowale, Mabrey and Jackie Young all spent time at point guard Thursday.

Young finished with 11 points, seven rebounds and five assists.

Jessica Shepard had 12 points, six boards and three blocked shots for the winners and fellow forward Kathryn Westbeld finished with 10 points.

Erykah Davenport led Miami with 24 points and went 12-of-19 from the field against primarily a 2-3 zone for the Irish. Emese Hof added 14 points and Shaneese Bailey 13.

ND improved to 34-0 all-time at home in ACC games.

The Irish play their next two ACC games on the road, visiting Georgia Tech at 2 p.m. Sunday, then taking on No. 3 Louisville next Thursday in a 7 p.m. nationally televised ESPN matchup.

That’s followed by a three-game homestand that features a Jan. 18 non-league clash against No. 7 Tennessee, also on ESPN, as the middle contest.

Notre Dame's Lili Thompson (1) questions a call during the second half of an Irish overtime win over Marquette on Dec. 20. Thompson's season is over, the school announced, after she suffered an ACL tear. (Tribune Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN)