ND Women’s Basketball
Notre Dame posts second-half comeback to punch tickets to Final Four
Elizabeth Greason | Tuesday, April 2, 2019
CHICAGO — As a great 21st-century philosopher once said, “The third quarter is ours and will always be ours.”
That philosopher was the one and only Irish senior guard Marina Mabrey, ever-confident in her team’s ability to pull through, no matter the circumstances, whether down by 12 at halftime in the 2018 national championship — when she expressed the sentiment — or down by seven to Stanford at halftime in the 2019 Elite Eight.
And the third quarter certainly belonged to Notre Dame (34-3, 14-2 ACC) on Monday night, when the Irish booked their tickets to Tampa Bay.
In the third quarter, the shots that had refused to drop for the entire first half — leaving the Irish starters 9-for-38 from the floor — began to fall. In the third quarter, Jackie Young took the game into her own hands. In the third quarter, the Irish decided they were going to win.
The junior guard, who had gone 1-of-7 in the first half, scored nine points in the game’s third frame and bagged four rebounds. And she gave the Irish the lead, which they never relinquished, making back-to-back jumpers and causing Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer to call a timeout with 1:23 remaining in the quarter.
In the first quarter, the Irish found themselves playing catch-up to the Cardinal (31-5, 15-3 Pac-12) as shots refused to drop and Stanford senior forward Alanna Smith went on a tear to open the game, dropping seven points and seven rebounds in the opening quarter.
“I don’t think we rebounded well. We needed to do a better job on the box outs so we could get our break going, which we weren’t able to do in the first half,” Irish head coach Muffet McGraw said. “I thought the defense got going in the second half, which allowed us to run, and I thought that was a big reason why things turned around for us.”
The Irish defense clearly turned on the heat in the second half. In terms of rebounds, the two schools had given one another plenty of second-chance opportunities in the first half, as Stanford finished the first half with 28 rebounds to Notre Dame’s 22. However, the Irish swung the momentum in their favor as they took control of the boards after the half, winning the rebound game 26-10.
“The difference in the halves, we weren’t knocking down shots, but we also gave them a lot of second-chance opportunities,” senior guard Arike Ogunbowale said. “So I think once we hit the boards in the second half, that really changed it around.”
The Irish were able to limit the Cardinal to just two second-chance points in the second half, after their eight in the first.
McGraw was pleased with her team’s ability to keep itself in the game, despite the obvious frustration that comes along with shots that simply refuse to fall.
“The thing today was it really was everybody [not playing well]. … I thought [graduate student forward] Brianna Turner was playing OK, but the other four really weren’t playing like they normally do,” she said in reference to the first half. “Normally somebody is going to pull us out of it, so they did. They kept their composure. I didn’t see a lot of frustration out there. We did talk about that at halftime, about their body language and just running back on defense, and I thought we definitely kept our composure in the second half.”
So, when the third quarter rolled around and shots started to drop and the deficit started to close — the Cardinals held as much as a nine-point lead in the third, the largest in the game — the composure held that Irish together. With each bucket, the bench arose and waved the crowd, essentially as green as the one at Purcell Pavilion — louder. And it listened. And with each point, the Irish began to taste Tampa.
The fouls were drawn.
The fist bumps followed.
The free throws dropped.
And on the lone occasion they didn’t, it didn’t matter. Because when Young’s second free throw hit the rim with under a minute to play in the third quarter, Turner boxed out and snagged the offensive rebound and screened the ball to freshman guard Abby Prohaska, who drove through the lane for a second-chance basket.
The Cardinal did not give up, by any means.
They shot 50 percent from the field in the fourth quarter and were nearly automatic from behind the 3-point line, putting up 22 points, their most offensively productive quarter.
“I was worried we were trading 3-for-2 on almost every possession, and we did talk about trying to get some stops,” McGraw said. “But we were able to answer, and I think that was key. We were able to make our free throws. That was a huge key, also. And then we were able to milk the clock a little bit more.”
And the Irish did not exactly slack off offensively in the final stanza, either, putting up 32 points of their own. Young added 10 more points and Ogunbowale picked up where she had left off against Texas A&M on Saturday, tossing up 11 points in 10 minutes.
“I thought that Arike was just phenomenal down the stretch,” McGraw said.
Double-double machine Jessica Shepard also quietly added another to her total for the season with 11 points and 14 rebounds, while Young finished with 25 and 10, respectively.
However, the Irish starters in Young, Shepard, Ogunbowale, Turner and Mabrey also added another achievement to their ranks Monday: They made history.
As Brianna Turner made a long jumper in the paint with 1:47 to play in the first quarter to give the Irish nine points, the starters accumulated their 10,000th-collective point, a feat that has not been accomplished by any group of starters, male or female, in college basketball history.
“It’s a milestone and certainly the first time it’s been done, men or women,” McGraw said. “It’s pretty amazing, but it really doesn’t mean anything except they get a lot of shots.”
With its 84-68 win over Stanford, Notre Dame advances to its second-straight Final Four and gets one step closer to defending its national title. But first it faces a rematch with UConn in the national semifinal game on Friday.
However, for now, the Irish are celebrating.
“It’s definitely a good win,” Ogunbowale said. “[Stanford] put us out two years in a row my freshman and sophomore year, so that was tough, and to get it back is great. But they’re a great team. They gave us a great run, and they played us well, so it’s great that we came out on top.”