ND Women’s Basketball
Notre Dame’s run ends with heartbreak against Stanford in Elite Eight
Renee Griffin | Sunday, March 26, 2017
LEXINGTON, Ky. — Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw shielded her face with her hand as she sat down for the postgame presser Sunday, and her voice broke a bit as she gave her opening statement. Next to her, senior guard Lindsay Allen looked straight ahead, attempting stoicism. One chair down, sophomore guard Arike Ogunbowale, named Most Outstanding Player at the Lexington Regional, cast her eyes downward and leaned her forehead against the microphone in front of her.
A few hundred feet away, No. 2 seed Stanford was cutting down the nets after coming back from a 16-point deficit to upset the top-seeded Irish 76-75 in the Elite Eight.
Notre Dame (33-4, 15-1 ACC) and the Cardinal (32-5, 15-3 Pac-12) began the game neck-and-neck, trading leads, jumpers and threes before the quarter ended with Stanford up 24-22.
The second quarter, though, belonged to the Irish, and more specifically to Ogunbowale, who led the way during an 18-0 run.
When a fired-up Ogunbowale closed out the half with a three-pointer, her team was up 45-31, and Ogunbowale had gone 8-of-10 for 21 points, putting her on track to beat the career-high 32 points she posted in Friday’s Sweet 16.
And then, shortly after coming out of the break and widening its lead to 16, Notre Dame’s shots stopped falling. Stanford’s did the opposite.
Cardinal junior guard Brittany McPhee — who would finish the game with 27 points, the most of any player on the day — took over as the game’s dominant offensive presence while simultaneously locking down Ogunbowale, who scored only four more points the rest of the game, on defense.
Overall, Notre Dame shot a dismal 26.3 percent in the third — before the half, it was shooting 56.3 percent. Stanford, meanwhile, went 10-for-16 in that span.
“We lost it in the third quarter,” McGraw said. “I don’t know what happened. We just couldn’t score and we couldn’t defend. I think the more they got on a run, the tighter we got on offense.
“I thought McPhee was fabulous. She was the difference in the game.”
With their momentum crushed and their play beginning to show signs of fatigue — Notre Dame got just four points from its bench, all from freshman guard Jackie Young — the Irish entered the fourth quarter up by just two points.
That slim lead vanished abruptly with a three-pointer from McPhee, and the race to the end was on. There were 11 lead changes in that final nine minutes and 38 seconds, but only the last one sent one team to the Final Four and the other home to South Bend.
Notre Dame sophomore guard Marina Mabrey fought hard to keep the Irish in it, scoring half of the squad’s 18 points in the fourth quarter to finish with 20.
The last four Irish points, though, were scored by team leader Allen, who recorded a double-double in her last game in a Notre Dame uniform. She sank two free throws at the 1:12 mark, then Cardinal sophomore guard Alanna Smith drove home a layup to take a one-point lead with less than a minute to go. Allen took it right back with a jumper.
Stanford called a timeout, down 75-74 with 41 seconds left. The Irish were desperate for a stop. They didn’t get one; Smith sank a jumper for what proved to be the last lead change in Lexington.
Notre Dame had 20 seconds for one more possession. McGraw sent Allen on a drive to the basket, just as she did facing overtime against Purdue a week ago. Just like a week ago, Allen was unable to convert.
When Stanford knocked the rebound out of bounds with two seconds left, it gave the Irish a single shot to avoid catastrophe. Allen took the ball from the referee and fired it to Ogunbowale on a screen.
Ogunbowale put the ball up, Stanford senior forward Erica McCall blocked it and the buzzer went off. The Cardinal erupted; the Irish deflated.
“I think the last play we were just trying to go up and get a good shot, just see our options,” Allen said. “We had Arike coming off the screen and we also had Marina coming off that flare in the corner. We figured we’d get a pretty good shot, and we did. It just didn’t go down.”
The loss was the second year in a row that Stanford kicked Notre Dame out of the tournament, and concluded a season in which the Irish battled back from three early losses to still earn a No. 1 seed in the tourney.
The heartbreaking defeat also ended a historic career for Allen, who holds both the ACC and Notre Dame records for career assists at 841 after playing well over 4,000 minutes for the Irish.
“These four years here have been something beyond my imagination. I could never have imagined coming here to Notre Dame and playing for Coach McGraw,” Allen said. “I just wanted this so bad for my teammates. It’s so sad to end at this moment.”