Encore for Arike Ogunbowale as No. 1 Irish hold off No. 2 Louisville
Louisville couldn’t be there — at least not on the court — for Notre Dame’s national championship win last season, so the Irish personally delivered some replays to their nemesis of a year ago during Thursday’s No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown.
Reminiscent of her feats at the Final Four, Arike Ogunbowale hit a 3-pointer just ahead of the third-quarter buzzer to give the Irish their largest lead of the night at that point, then another huge one in the closing minute for a seven-point edge, as top-ranked Notre Dame rallied to knock off the second-rated Cardinals, 82-68, in front of a sellout crowd at rocking Purcell Pavilion.
Irish coach Muffet McGraw sported the same green scarf she wore for last spring’s title game. In its second such try this season, but just its third ever, Notre Dame won a home 1-vs.-2 matchup for the first time.
Clutch yet again, Ogunbowale poured in 19 of her game-high 30 points in the closing quarter.
She set a program record with her fifth 30-point game of the season, breaking a tie with Jewell Loyd. She also passed Katryna Gaither for third place on the all-time Irish point list, now standing at 2,138.
The Cardinals (14-1, 2-1 Atlantic Coast Conference), after trimming a 12-point deficit early in the fourth quarter to 66-64 at 2:39 to go, came unglued down the stretch, twice getting called for unsportsmanlike fouls.
Brianna Turner scored 16 points for Notre Dame (15-1, 3-0) and Jackie Young 14, while Jessica Shepard hauled in 15 rebounds to go with seven points.
Shepard surpassed 1,000 rebounds in her career, the first 550 of those coming while playing her initial two seasons at Nebraska.
The Irish avenged their stunningly lopsided 100-67 regular-season loss and their 74-72 ACC Tournament title-game setback last season to Louisville.
Asia Durr — like Ogunbowale, a preseason All-American — paced the Cardinals with 29 points. Bionca Dunham was next for the visitors with 10 points.
After trailing 35-33 at halftime, surging Notre Dame outscored Louisville 24-12 in the third period to take a 57-47 lead into the closing quarter on Ogunbowale’s first triple of the evening. Ogunbowale finished the second half with 26 points after scoring just four before the break.
The senior also had a game-high six assists on the heels of a career-high 12 in her last outing.
The Irish struggled to stop Durr in the first half, and struggled to take care of the ball. Durr netted 19 points over the opening two periods to lead the Cardinals to their two-point lead at the half.
Notre Dame’s 11 turnovers by the intermission resulted in 15 Louisville points. The Cards committed just two turnovers in the opening half. Shepard hauled in 13 rebounds by halftime, keying the Irish to a 29-17 board advantage.
Young scored 10 points for Notre Dame in the opening half, but fellow back-courters Ogunbowale and Mabrey each struggled, going a combined 1-of-9 from the field and tallying just seven points between them by the break.
The Irish, after leading 20-19 through a six-lead-change first quarter, were outscored 16-13 by Louisville in the second period.
ND’s most overpowering quarter on the season heading into the game (a 366-199 scoring advantage), this second period marked the first time the Irish were outscored by an opponent in that stanza.
The Irish remain at home for their next game, Sunday’s 1 p.m. visit by Wake Forest. The Cardinals host Georgia Tech on Sunday.
Matching a mentor
With her 903rd career win, McGraw matched the man who gave McGraw her start in collegiate coaching.
Jim Foster was head coach at Saint Joseph’s in Philadelphia when McGraw returned to her alma mater in 1980 for a two-year stay as an assistant. Foster arrived two seasons earlier, one year after McGraw’s graduation.
Foster went 903-347 over 40 seasons spanning stops at Saint Joe, Vanderbilt, Ohio State and Chattanooga before retiring after last season.
McGraw, 903-272 in her 37th season, and Foster now stand tied for seventh place on the women’s all-time NCAA victory list regardless of division.
While McGraw will pass Foster with her next win, it’ll also be her last pass for at least a while. The coaches in the Nos. 2 through 6 spots are all active, with C. Vivian Stringer of Rutgers in sixth at 1,009 wins.
Tennessee’s Pat Summitt, who retired in 2012 and died in 2016, remains the all-time victory leader at 1,098.
Stanford’s Tara VanDerveer (1,048) and Connecticut’s Geno Auriemma (1,040) are next.