Notre Dame finishes strong, earns ACC Tourney finals berth vs. Lousiville
GREENSBORO, N.C.— Marina Mabrey, Arike Ogunbowale and the rest of fifth-ranked Notre Dame handled Florida State's challenge to their perfect women's basketball Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament record with veteran composure — particularly when it came to the fourth quarter.
Mabrey scored a season-high 27 points and the Irish shot 63 percent in the final quarter to beat No. 11 Florida State 90-80 Saturday in the semifinals, putting them a win away from a record fifth straight tournament title since joining the league in the 2013-14 season.
The second-seeded Irish (29-2) have gotten to this point despite having only seven scholarship players after a series of knee injuries that sidelined star forward Brianna Turner all season and point guard Lili Thompson on Dec. 31. Yet they shared the regular-season title with No. 5 Louisville, though they ended up with the No. 2 seed after losing the head-to-head matchup.
"We're the underdog this year," Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. "It's a position we're not used to, and it's one that we're really enjoying right now."
The Irish will play No. 4 Louisville in Sunday's championship game (2 p.m., ESPN2) It will be a rematch of Notre Dame's last loss, a 100-67 defeat at Louisville in January.
Notre Dame rallied from eight points down in the third quarter, with Mabrey hitting a tough buzzer-beating 3-pointer from near the Notre Dame bench to end the quarter and put Notre Dame ahead for good at 62-60.
"I just figured there was a couple of seconds left — I had to shoot it," Mabrey said. "Even though it kind of looks like a chuck-up, I've just got to make sure my shoulders are square to give myself the best chance to make the shot."
That started the decisive 16-4 run, which included Arike Ogunbowale hitting a 3 as part of her own big fourth quarter. The junior guard scored 14 of her 20 points in the final 10 minutes.
"Her and Marina just play really well off of each other," McGraw said. "They help each other, they know each other's moves and where they want the ball."
Shakayla Thomas scored 24 points for the third-seeded Seminoles (25-6), who erased a 10-point second-quarter deficit and took a 56-48 lead on Nausia Woolfolk's layup with 4:30 left in the third before the Irish made their move.
"I'm really proud of my team, and just the way that they fought and played together until the end," FSU coach Sue Semrau said. "I think we grew, and I told them that, you know, sometimes pain and failure is a better teacher than success. So we look forward to the NCAA Tournament."
Ogunbowale was whistled for a technical foul for kicking her leg up and tripping FSU's Nicki Ekhomu after a turnover with 59.1 seconds left in the first half. Ekhomu hit both free throws for a 41-40 lead, part of FSU's 14-4 run to close the second quarter and erase a 38-29 deficit.
But Ogunbowale was dominant in the fourth, making 6-of-7 shots while finishing with seven rebounds and five assists.
"Arike was a little frustrated in the first half and she let her emotions get the best of her," McGraw said. "And then in the second half, I thought she had a stretch where she was absolutely unstoppable."
No. 5 Notre Dame 90, No. 11 Florida St. 80
FLORIDA ST. (25-6): Shakayla Thomas 10-22 4-5 24, Ama Degbeon 2-3 0-0 4, Chatrice White 4-7 0-0 8, AJ Alix 3-7 0-0 9, Imani Wright 5-17 0-0 13, Nicki Ekhomu 7-15 2-2 18, Nausia Woolfolk 2-3 0-0 4. Totals: 33-74 6-7 80.
NOTRE DAME (29-2): Jessica Shepard 3-5 11-11 17, Kathryn Westbeld 6-8 0-0 12, Marina Mabrey 8-17 7-10 27, Jackie Young 5-7 4-5 14, Arike Ogunbowale 9-18 0-0 20, Kristina Nelson 0-0 0-0 0, Danielle Patterson 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 31-56 22-26 90.
Florida St. 15 43 60 80
Notre Dame 23 42 62 90
3-Point Goals — Florida St. 8-18 (Alix 3-5, Wright 3-9, Ekhomu 2-4), Notre Dame 6-16 (Westbeld 0-2, Mabrey 4-9, Ogunbowale 2-5). Fouled Out — None. Rebounds — Florida St. 28 (Thomas 7), Notre Dame 37 (Shepard 10). Assists — Florida St. 19 (Alix 6), Notre Dame 17 (Ogunbowale 5). Total Fouls — Florida St. 20, Notre Dame 14. A — 6,160.
• Louisville 64, NC State 59: Sam Fuehring scored 15 points to help No. 4 Louisville hold off No. 23 North Carolina State in Saturday's other semifinal.
The top-seeded Cardinals (31-2) led by eight midway through the fourth quarter, but needed some key baskets to stay in control.
Fuehring had one inside off a feed from Jazmine Jones with 1:57 left. Then Myisha Hines-Allen had a critical stickback with 32.6 seconds left as Louisville protected a 59-55 lead.
Ultimately, the Cardinals did enough to clinch their first trip to the tournament final after three previous semifinal losses.
Louisville shot 52 percent and had four players in double figures, though ACC player of the year Asia Durr had a second straight quiet game with nine points.
Chelsea Nelson scored 20 points for the fifth-seeded Wolfpack (24-8), who shot 39 percent but had a 34-24 rebounding advantage.