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ND Women’s Basketball

Top-ranked Irish bound for 10th-straight Sweet 16

| Thursday, March 28, 2019

With four of the five starters closing a chapter on their home careers in Purcell Pavilion with a 28-point win over ninth-seeded Michigan State on Monday, Notre Dame will prepare to take on fourth-seeded Texas A&M on Saturday in Chicago in a rematch of last year’s Sweet 16.

The Irish, who earned a top seed in the field of 64, continued to dominate the tournament in their second-round win. This win was bittersweet, however, as many of the key members of the team said goodbye to the crowd that’s cheered them on for the past four years.

Michelle Mehelas | The Observer

Junior guard Jackie Young sets up the offense in Notre Dame’s first-round matchup against Bethune-Cookman in Purcell Pavilion March 23.

“It’s just been amazing being able to play in front of these fans for four years,” senior guard Arike Ogunbowale said in a press conference following the win over the Spartans. “They’ve been so supportive, and I’m definitely gonna miss playing in this gym.”

Although the team won’t get to play in the comfort of Purcell Pavilion for the remainder of the postseason, graduate student forward Brianna Turner acknowledged the advantage her team received in being placed in the Chicago regional and the high expectations they have for fan turnout.

“A huge advantage. I know our fans travel well and I know we have a lot of just fans who live in Chicago anyway, so I expect the arena to be mostly green instead of maroon,” Turner said. “ … They’ve just been so consistent supporting us.”

That strong presence of Notre Dame fans will be needed come Saturday, as the Irish will likely have their hands full against sophomore guard Chennedy Carter and the Aggies. The last time these two teams met, the Irish were able to persevere and pull out a six-point win, despite trailing by two at half. However, as head coach Muffet McGraw noted, this Aggie lineup bears little resemblance to the one they saw a year ago, with Carter being the lone returning starter.

Lina Domenella | The Observer

“They’ve got a really good team. Very different from last year, and I think really just one player in the starting lineup returning,” McGraw said. “They’ve had a great year. I really think probably overachieved to get this far.”

Carter has lit women’s basketball on fire, averaging nearly 23 points a game, including a 30-point, nine-rebound effort in Texas A&M’s recent two-point win over Marquette in the round of 32.

Turner, a native of Pearland, Texas, a Houston suburb just two hours southeast of Texas A&M’s campus in College Station, Texas, said she knows the high bar the Irish will have to meet to advance to their third-straight Elite Eight.

“We’re gonna come in focused tomorrow,” Turner said following the win Monday. “Of course they have a great guard, Chennedy Carter, they’ve got really good posts inside too. We’re gonna focus and prepare for that.”

McGraw echoed Turner’s sentiments, commenting that Carter is a good passer and “can shoot it from anywhere,” and acknowledging the other Aggies’ skills.

“They have a post player inside, Sierra Johnson, who’s doing really good things for them,” McGraw said. “They have a junior college player [Shambria Washington] who hit the game-winner for them against Marquette.”

Although Notre Dame knows it has its hands full with this Texas A&M trio, McGraw seemed comfortable in her unit’s ability to manage the game, particularly with guard Jackie Young taking on Carter. The junior has built herself the reputation of being a Renaissance woman, an offensive threat and a lockdown defender.

“We’ll probably mix it up a little bit, don’t want to wear her out too much,” McGraw said of whether or not Young would be guarding Carter. “But she generally is somebody who takes the best offensive player on the other team.”

Tipoff is scheduled for 4 p.m. this Saturday at the Wintrust Arena.

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