Notre Dame women's basketball finds another comeback to land in Elite Eight

Tim Booth
Associated Press

SPOKANE, Wash.— Muffet McGraw checked through the list of all the things Notre Dame did poorly early on. Bad shot selection. Lack of rebounding. Not enough stops on defense.

"We got down big. We've been down in other games. We feel like we are poised and can come back," McGraw said.

As McGraw expected, the top-seeded Irish did have a comeback waiting and it landed Notre Dame back on the cusp of another trip to the Final Four.

Arike Ogunbowale scored 17 of her 27 points in the second half and Marina Mabrey added 25, hitting a career-high seven 3-pointers, to help Notre Dame beat No. 4 seed Texas A&M 90-84 on Saturday in the NCAA women's basketball Spokane Regional semifinals.

The Irish (32-3) rallied from a 13-point first-half deficit and are back in their familiar spot of playing for a trip to the Final Four.

It took a fantastic shooting performance from Mabrey and some key contributions late from Ogunbowale and Jackie Young for Notre Dame to hold off Chennedy Carter and the Aggies. Young had three key baskets in the final five minutes and finished with 15 points. Mabrey was 7-of-11 on 3-pointers and the Irish made 10-of-18 shots from behind the arc. She had all of her points in the first three quarters.

"I practiced for it," Mabrey said with a grin. "I don't know. I think when the shots are open, they're a little bit easier to make. My teammates are finding me in great positions."

Carter, the dynamic freshman for the Aggies, finished with 31 points and seven assists. Anriel Howard added a career-high 26 points and 14 rebounds, but the Aggies (26-10) have advanced to the Elite Eight just once since winning the title in 2011.

Texas A&M coach Gary Blair said he wouldn't be second-guessing any decisions after this tournament loss. The Aggies were simply outclassed.

"I wouldn't change a thing. We played exceptionally well," Blair said. "Even though we were up 12 or 13 or whatever it was, we knew Notre Dame would come back. They were hitting shots. They were doing what they needed to. That's why they're the No. 1 team."

The first tournament meeting between the Aggies and Irish since the 2011 national championship game was an offensive showcase with both teams trading scoring spurts before the Irish finally took control with an 11-3 burst midway through the fourth quarter.

Notre Dame led 79-70 with 5 minutes left following Young's basket, but had to hold on after Kennedy and Anriel Howard hit a trio of 3-pointers. Texas A&M was within 85-82 with 1:40 left, but Notre Dame's Kathryn Westbeld hit a 15-footer with 1:15 remaining to push the lead back to five. Westbeld has been limited by an ankle injury suffered in the tournament opener.

"(That) was the difference in the game. That was the game-winner," McGraw said.

Early rally

Texas A&M used an 18-2 run to take control early and led by as many as 13 after Carter's basket midway through the second quarter. Notre Dame responded by outscoring the Aggies 21-12 over the final 6 ½ minutes of the first half and pulled within 47-45 at halftime. The Irish closed the half hitting 9-of-11 shots.

"I thought readied the ship a little in the second quarter to pull within two, then third quarter I think we relaxed and played our game a little bit more," McGraw said.

Tournament record

Mabrey's seven 3-pointers were a Notre Dame NCAA Tournament record. Her previous career-high of six 3s came in the first-round victory over Cal State Northridge.

"I think a few times in transition, they might have mixed up some players. Got some shots there," Mabrey said.

Big picture

Texas A&M: The Aggies will lament their poor free-throw shooting. Texas A&M was 11-of-20 at the line after shooting nearly 78 percent for the season on free throws. Carter was 8-of-13 at the line.

Notre Dame: The Irish shot 53 percent and put up 90 points despite barely getting to the free-throw line. The Irish were just 6-of-8 at the line after averaging nearly 15 made free throws on the season.

Up next

Notre Dame: The Irish will play in the Elite Eight for the seventh time in the past eight seasons against No. 2-seed Oregon Monday night at 9 p.m.

TEXAS A&M (26-10): Howard 12-21 0-0 26, Hillsman 6-11 1-3 13, Carter 10-25 8-13 31, Lumpkin 3-6 2-4 8, Williams 2-5 0-0 6, Martin 0-1 0-0 0, McKinney 0-0 0-0 0, Walton 0-0 0-0 0, Wells 0-2 0-0 0, Totals 33-71 11-20 84.

NOTRE DAME (32-3): Shepard 6-13 1-2 13, Westbeld 2-3 0-0 4, Mabrey 9-15 0-0 25, Ogunbowale 10-23 4-4 27, Young 7-13 1-2 15, Nelson 1-1 0-0 2, Patterson 2-2 0-0 4, Totals 37-70 6-8 90.

Texas A&M 26 21 16 21 — 84

Notre Dame 19 26 23 22— 90

3-Point Goals--Texas A&M 7-15 (Howard 2-3, Carter 3-7, Williams 2-4, Wells 0-1), Notre Dame 10-18 (Mabrey 7-11, Ogunbowale 3-5, Young 0-2). Assists--Texas A&M 17 (Carter 7), Notre Dame 26 (Mabrey 9). Fouled Out--None. Rebounds--Texas A&M 37 (Howard 14), Notre Dame 40 (Shepard 10). Total Fouls--Texas A&M 14, Notre Dame 15. Technical Fouls--None.A--0.

Notre Dame guard Marina Mabrey, back, passes the ball while defended by Texas A&M guard Danni Williams (12) during the second half in a regional semifinal at the NCAA women's college basketball tournament, Saturday, March 24, 2018, Spokane, Wash. Notre Dame won 90-84. (AP Photo/Young Kwak)