Notre Dame's record-breaking starters close in on milestone

Anthony Anderson | Tribune Correspondent
ND Insider

CHICAGO

None of those past buckets will be worth any points when Notre Dame faces Stanford on Monday night with a Final Four spot at stake, but early on, the Irish starters will score a point that gives them a milestone no other NCAA Division I women’s or men’s basketball quintet has ever even sniffed.

“I mean, that is pretty amazing,” Arike Ogunbowale conceded about ND’s fivesome of herself, Jessica Shepard, Brianna Turner, Marina Mabrey and Jackie Young closing in on 10,000 combined career points.

Until the Irish blew by the previous women’s standard merely halfway through this season, a 2017-18 quintet from Ohio State owned it at 8,492. On the men’s side, the record is 8,216 by a group that played together for North Carolina in 2008-09.

“I think we have really five All-Americans on the court,” Ogunbowale said. “Even if they didn’t put us on the list, we have five All-Americans on the court.”

According to Ogunbowale, by virtue of being on the floor with four teammates “that can score 30 on any given night, each one of us is just amazing, and I think that’s a credit to the coaches recruiting us and getting great players and developing us.”

With Ogunbowale at a program-record 2,551, Shepard at 2,298, Turner at 1,976, Mabrey at 1,856 and Young at 1,311, the starters for the top-seeded Irish are idling at 9,992 heading into Monday’s matchup against the second-seeded Cardinal.

“Yeah, that’s something that’s hard to kind of wrap your head around,” Shepard acknowledged of the group approaching 10 grand, “but I think it’s just due to the coaches putting us in the position to score, and then just us being willing to play together.”

“It’s pretty exciting,” ND coach Muffet McGraw said, “(because) men’s or women’s, that’s never been done before. I think it’s just interesting because of the way the class settled in, with Bri coming back for the fifth year, Jess coming in. So ... that is five All-Americans on the floor at the same time.”

Turner redshirted last season after suffering a knee injury the previous March.

Ogunbowale and Mabrey arrived at Notre Dame a year after Turner. Young, the lone junior, came aboard the following season.

Shepard joined the team before last season as a transfer from Nebraska.

Even if her 1,112 points with the Cornhuskers were subtracted, she and the rest of the Irish quintet still already own the record at 8,880.

“More impressive, I think, are the assists,” McGraw said of a key enabler to ND’s nation-leading 89.1 points per game this season. “I don’t know if we’re setting any assist records, but four people over 100 (in the same year) I think is pretty unusual, too.”

Stanford stalking

Connecticut’s typically viewed as Notre Dame’s arch nemesis — and if the Irish win Monday, they’ll see the Huskies again at the Final Four in Tampa, Fla. — but it’s Stanford that’s ended the last two Irish seasons that ended with a loss.

The last postseason game that defending national champion ND has dropped was 76-75 as a No. 1 seed against the second-seeded Cardinal in the 2017 regional final in Lexington, Ky.

The last one the Irish lost before that was 90-84 in a 2016 regional semifinal against Stanford, also in Lexington, with ND as a No. 1 and the Cardinal as just a No. 4.

In the 2017 game — which came a week after Turner was sidelined for over a year — Ogunbowale scored 25 points as a sophomore, but missed a possible game-winning shot, hardly a precursor to the two she’d go on to drain at last spring’s Final Four.

Stanford stormed back from a 16-point, third-quarter deficit for that 2017 win.

“I’d like to spend all my time watching two and three years ago,” Cardinal coach Tara VanDerveer joked Sunday of whether she’ll review video of the last two matchups in preparation for this one, “but that probably won’t help us that much tomorrow. … We have played against them a little bit, but this is a new team for them. We’ve got to get ready for this team.”

For Stanford, only Alanna Smith, who came off the bench to net 15 points, and DiJonai Carrington, who played just eight minutes, remain as active players from the 2017 game.

Besides Ogunbowale, Notre Dame has back Marina Mabrey, who scored 20 points that day, and Young, who added four off the bench as a freshman.

“We run a lot of the same stuff,” Mabrey said Sunday of the Cardinal. “We have a lot of the same tendencies. It’ll be key for us to play really good defense.”

Each team enters on a 12-game winning streak.

After Notre Dame beat Texas A&M, 87-80, in Saturday’s first regional semifinal at Wintrust Arena — the only win in its current streak decided by fewer than 18 points — Stanford overcame ice-cold shooting to down Missouri State, 55-46. That was the sixth single-digit win during the Cardinal’s streak.

Notre Dame’s Arike Ogunbowale (24) shoots against Texas A&M’s Kayla Wells (11) during Saturday’s NCAA Tournament regional win in Chicago.
Notre Dame’s Brianna Turner (11) shoots against Texas A&M’s N’dea Jones (31) during Saturdays NCAA women’s regional tournament in Chicago.

WOMEN’S BASKETBALL

WHO: No. 1 seed Notre Dame (33-3) vs. No. 2 seed Stanford (31-4) in NCAA Tournament regional final.

WHERE: Wintrust Arena (10,387), Chicago.

WHEN: Monday, 9 p.m. ET.

TICKETS: Available, $12 to $27.

TV: ESPN2.

RADIO: Pulse (103.1/96.9/ 92.1 FM).

WOMEN’S BASKETBALL

NOTING: Stanford’s the only team to beat currently No. 1-ranked Baylor this season, doing so 68-63 while hosting the Bears on Dec. 15. … Monday’s game will be the fourth NCAA Tourney matchup between Notre Dame and the Cardinal in five years. The Irish took the first one 81-60 in a 2015 regional semifinal, before Stanford earned narrow wins as lower seeds in both 2016 and 2017. … Overall, Cardinal coach Tara VanDerveer is 4-1 against ND coach Muffet McGraw. … A 1975 IU alum, VanDerveer is the second-winningest coach in women’s college basketball history at 1,067-246 spanning three stops and 40 seasons. She’s seeking her 13th Final Four appearance in the last 30 years, and won national titles in 1990 and 1992. … McGraw is 921-274 spanning two stops and 37 seasons. She’s seeking her ninth Final Four appearance in the last 23 years, and won national titles in 2001 and 2018. … Stanford is led by 6-4 senior forward Allana Smith from Australia, averaging 19.6 points and 8.7 rebounds. She’s a 52 percent field goal shooter overall and 79-of-199 on 3-pointers for 40 percent. Sophomore guard Kiana Williams is averaging 14.1 points, 4.8 assists and is 87-of-240 on 3s for 36 percent despite going 0-of-11 outside the arc in Saturday’s win over Missouri State. Junior guard DiJonai Carrington is at 13.9 points and 7.5 rebounds. … The Cardinal regularly deploy nine players averaging 10.1 minutes or more, while Notre Dame has typically gone with seven players while games are in doubt. … One of Stanford’s backups is junior Anna Wilson, who scored a season-high 11 points off the bench as her brother, NFL quarterback Russell Wilson, watched Saturday from the stands. … Irish guard Arike Ogunbowale (2,551) needs 10 points to pass Austin Carr as the top scorer in ND men’s or women’s history. Carr, playing in an era when freshmen were ineligible, appeared in just 74 games over parts of three seasons, closing his Irish career in 1971 with a 34.6 average. Ogunbowale, who has averaged 17.5 over 146 games, notched her career high of 34 on Saturday.

QUOTING: “Basically, everyone is back that won a national championship, and then they add Brianna Turner to that mix, and they’re playing kind of in their backyard (in Chicago). We know it will be a big challenge, but I have a lot of confidence in our team. … But Notre Dame, I mean, there are no chinks in that armor. They have everything.” — Tara VanDerveer, Stanford coach, on the Irish.