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ND Women’s Basketball

Arike Ogunbowale becomes all-time leading scorer in program history as Notre Dame defeats Duke

| Friday, February 22, 2019

It’s not often fans see heads turn from the huddle on the sideline to give their attention to the video board. But when Notre Dame left the court for a media timeout midway through the second quarter Thursday evening during its convincing 89-61 defeat of Duke, there were more than a few members of the team sneaking a peek at Purcell Pavilion’s big screen, as opposed to at head coach Muffet McGraw. And perhaps for good reason.

Irish senior guard Arike Ogunbowale made history Thursday. She further cemented herself as one of the players little girls all over the country will aspire to become for decades to come, as she scored 25 points, carving her name at the top of Notre Dame’s all-time leading scorers list, with a career total of 2,371 points, passing Skylar Diggins-Smith, who had held the record since 2013, sitting at 2,357 points. Ogunbowale had entered the game with 2,346 total points, needing 11 to tie Diggins-Smith and 12 to claim the solo lead. And within minutes, there was no doubt in the building that Ogunbowale had no intention of sharing the scoring title, even for a moment.

Peter St. John | The Observer

Irish senior guard Arike Ogunbowale drives to the basket during Notre Dame’s 89-61 win over Duke on Thursday at Purcell Pavilion. Ogunbowale poured in 25 points on the night.

Forcing turnovers was the name of the game for Notre Dame on Thursday. It finished the game with 17 steals, six of those coming in the first quarter alone. The Irish were efficient at scoring off the turnover, with 29 points coming from those opportunities.

Ogunbowale got off to a hot start, hitting back-to-back 3-pointers from the outside right. The next possession, senior forward Jessica Shepard took it to the house on a steal by senior guard Marina Mabrey, one of her five of the game.

However, the Irish struggled to contain Blue Devils freshman guard Miela Goodchild, who knocked down a game-high 26 points for Duke.

“Goodchild, really, what a game. That’s an amazing shooting performance,” McGraw said. “Eight-for-14 from the 3-point line, that’s something you don’t want to see happen when you’re on the other bench. She certainly earned them all.”

The Irish excelled in the paint throughout the game, as was their game plan, as McGraw said the goal had been to go high-low to Turner and Shepard as much as possible. Notre Dame scored 58 points in the paint, compared to Duke’s 20, as graduate student forward Brianna Turner and Shepard both walked away with double-doubles — Turner collected hers before the Irish headed into the locker room at halftime.

“Numbers 32 and 11, you know them by name and I do too, those two post players [Shepard and Turner]. Two senior post players with a lot of experience and they really took it to us, and despite the fact that Arike was pretty strong herself, I think it was the interior and the paint points and the rebounding, and that’s too bad for us,” Duke head coach Joanna McCallie said postgame.

The Irish also outplayed the Blue Devils on second-chance points, out-rebounding them 45-25 and out-scoring them 30-7 on second-chance points. As McCallie noted postgame, it came down to a differential in hustle between the two squads, and Notre Dame did a better job of going after balls successfully, as evidenced by Turner’s 12 defensive rebounds.

“Second chance, 30-7. That’s the game. … It was just excellent on their part. They went after the ball. They went and got it,” McCallie said. “We were hoping to be in better position. Draw some fouls, draw some people over the back and then, guard rebounding-wise, we just really had to get some guards to rebound from the defensive board side. We’ve got to go get that ball while it’s kind of being kicked around. But, credit them, that’s a lot of rebounding. That’s 25 for two people. We didn’t and couldn’t get the job done there tonight. Obviously, a valuable lesson there for us.”

Ogunbowale beat the buzzer from the paint with one second on the clock to end the first quarter, giving her 10 points in 10 minutes, and, perhaps more importantly, putting her two away from topping the scoring charts.

When the two teams took the court again in the second quarter, Ogunbowale didn’t waste any time. She made a steal at the Duke end of the court, drove up the middle, pulled up and fired for a long jumper, just inside the 3-point arc. And with 8:47 remaining in the second quarter, Ogunbowale had just dethroned Skylar Diggins-Smith as Notre Dame’s all-time leading scorer. And while the entire arena reacted, getting to its feet and echoing in cheers and applause, Ogunbowale had no reaction. She got right back to work, responding to a Duke 3-pointer by Goodchild with two more back-to-back buckets.

“[I was] just focused on the game, just trying to get a win,” Ogunbowale said. “I mean it just really is a blessing, especially with all the great players that have come to this school, to be at the top of that list is just an honor, especially to do it at this school.”

But while all eyes were watching the gap between Ogunbowale and Diggins-Smith grow smaller and smaller — and then wider and wider — throughout the evening, the Irish were quietly going about their work, as Turner and Shepard continued to rack up significant point totals, 21 and 24, respectively.

“That was nice to see the inside game. You know, we turned it over too much, but I thought they played well together, and our game plan was high-low,” McGraw said of the duo. “That’s what we were looking for. We were looking to score, and really exploit that, get some lobs for Bri and I think we did a really good job of that. I thought Arike added quite a bit in there.”

It was really all about Ogunbowale, Turner and Shepard on Thursday, as a sick Mabrey struggled to score, but aided in dishing the ball, picking up 10 assists on the night. Her illness and an Irish lead allowed freshman guard Abby Prohaska to get increased playing time, as she saw 23 minutes, and scored four points with four rebounds and two assists. McGraw was disappointed in the play of junior guard Jackie Young, whose seven points and seven rebounds did not reflect the aggressive attitude she has been encouraging the Princeton, Indiana, native to take on the court.

“She’s got to score. She was really reluctant to even shoot the ball tonight,” McGraw said of Young. “I don’t know why, we talked to her yesterday, asked her to shoot some 3s, wanted her to really get involved in the offense tonight, knew that Marina was sick before the game — so even a little more need for Jackie to step up — and she did not do that tonight.”

Defensively, however, McGraw said she was pleased with the improvements she has seen in her squad, especially the display it put on in the first half, holding the Blue Devils to just 25 points, as the Irish went into halftime up 52-25.

“We looked like we did the second half of NC State, I thought the zone was really working well, working well together, you know, we were really moving, we were rebounding,” she said. “They missed some shots during that stretch that they normally would’ve made. I thought that was great defense. First half, held them to 25 points. That was awesome. We were playing the passing lanes really well in the first half.”

But when it came right down to it, it was Ogunbowale’s night.

“She’s the face of our program. If you look at what she’s done for us, over the past four years, it’s been fun to watch her grow, it’s been fun to see where she’s come since her freshman year and how she gets better every year,” McGraw said of the senior. “Her passion for the game, when she gets the ball in transition, she’s just so exciting. And she’s fun to watch. I’ve really enjoyed coaching her. She’s taught me a lot of things about being fearless, about letting things go. I think she’s left her mark on the program that will last forever. She’ll be up in the rafters one day soon, and I couldn’t be prouder of what she’s accomplished here.”

At that timeout, when the video began to roll, the montage of the Milwaukee native’s first point, which she scored against Bucknell in 2015, followed by her 1,000th point, which came just one year later, her 2,000th point, scored during Notre Dame’s now-famed comeback win against Tennessee in 2018, her two game-winning shots in the 2018 Final Four and both her shots to pass Katryna Gaither and current associate head coach Beth Cunningham to move into second place all-time, leading her to today. So when all that began to play, it’s no wonder that some heads began to turn, as the lime green-clad fans climbed to their feet. Because while it was still the game that mattered, and taking down Duke was still the primary goal of Thursday night, all 8,399 people at Purcell Pavilion — including those on the court — were acutely aware of everything else going on there that evening.

“I’m still pretty young, but I think once I get older and maybe once I am done playing basketball, I can really sit back and appreciate it,” Ogunbowale said. “But right now I still got a lot of basketball to play, and I’m focused on doing better this year.”

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About Elizabeth Greason

Elizabeth is a senior studying civil engineering from New York, NY (yes, the actual city). She is a proud resident assistant in McGlinn Hall and is a die-hard Mets and Giants fan. She is currently serving as assistant managing editor of The Observer and she also has an obsession with golf that is bordering on unhealthy.

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