Notre Dame women's basketball uses epic rally to beat Tennessee

Anthony Anderson
Tribune Correspondent

SOUTH BEND — Somehow, some seemingly inconceivable way, the greatest successful comeback in Notre Dame women's basketball history didn't even include what would seem an automatic accompaniment — a fantastic finish.

The Irish were too stunningly special in the second half to even mess with that.

Instead, they turned a game in which they were being blown out into their own blowout, storming from a 23-point first-half deficit to beat Tennessee 84-70 on Thursday night before a near-capacity, nearly delirious crowd at Purcell Pavilion.

Televisions may have been turned off at halftime in this national TV game, but it appeared almost nobody in the green-ocean stands lost faith, let alone left the building.

Arike Ogunbowale recorded game highs of 27 points and eight rebounds, and Marina Mabrey added 20 points, a game-high seven assists and a game-high four steals while playing all 40 minutes for Notre Dame.

“We showed we're a great team and can beat anybody,” Jackie Young said during a quick postgame interview over the public address system after finishing with 18 points and another three of ND's 15 steals.

The No. 5-ranked Irish moved to 17-2 while dropping the No. 6 Lady Vols to 16-2.

The rally from 23 points down shattered the previous best comeback win in ND history, per a school official — 18 points on multiple occasions. Such was most recently achieved against Duke in the 2011 Junkanoo Jam title game on Natalie Novosel's game-winning shot at the buzzer.

Notre Dame overwhelmed Tennessee by a 34-10 count during the fourth quarter.

The Irish trailed 61-50 in the opening minute of the final period before beginning their charge.

They ended up making runs of both 12-0 and 14-0 in the quarter.

ND was down 37-14 at 7:03 to go in the second period before trimming the deficit to 39-27 by halftime.

Ogunbowale scored 13 of her points in the final quarter. Young and Mabrey added eight apiece.

The Irish charged back largely behind a turnover-causing defense, with those takeaways typically turned into transition buckets, and with an aggressive offense that took keen care of the ball.

The Vols finished with 15 of their 28 turnovers in the second half, while ND had just three turnovers following the break after committing nine before it.

Jessica Shepard scored 12 points and dished four assists for the winners.

Notre Dame — which certainly may have been inspiring visions of their 100-67 loss just last week at No. 2 Louisville after trailing 27-10 through one quarter Thursday — instead won their 18th consecutive home game. The Irish are 87-2 with two losses to UConn in their last 89 Purcell contests since losing to No. 3 Baylor in December 2012.

Meme Jackson led five Tennessee players in double figures with 18 points.

Their one-game pause from Atlantic Coast Conference play behind them, Notre Dame resumes league action Sunday when they host Clemson at 1 p.m.

The Vols cap a stretch of four straight ranked opponents Sunday by hosting No. 3 Mississippi State.

Notre Dame’s Arike Ogunbowale (24) goes up for a shot between Tennessee’s Anastasia Hayes (1) and Evina Westbrook (2) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018, in South Bend, Ind. Notre Dame won 84-70. Tribune Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN