No. 1 Notre Dame Fends Off No. 2 Louisville, 82-68
When it’s clutch time, it’s Arike Ogunbowale time.
Held in check most of the first 30 minutes, the Notre Dame All-American senior guard took control in the final 10 minutes, plus a little change, when she scored 19 of her game-high 30 points (26 overall in the second half, and the team's final 12) during the fourth quarter in Notre Dame’s hard fought and often chippy 82-68 victory versus the No. 2-ranked Louisville Cardinals Thursday night at Purcell Pavilion.
Her takeover began with a dramatic three-pointer at the horn — something she has been wont to do — to end the third quarter to give Notre Dame a 57-47 lead. A facilitator most of the game with a game-high six assists, Ogunbowale scored five straight points to provide a 62-50 cushion early in the fourth quarter.
Louisville chipped away to close within 68-66 with 1:48 left, but a Brianna Turner basket underneath on a good feed from junior Jackie Young and an Ogunbowale dagger three provided a 73-66 cushion in the closing minute.
“Didn’t panic, and Arike really did some big things down the stretch,” Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw said of closing out the game with a 14-2 run in the last 1:48 for a final score that did not tell the story of how competitive the game was. “It’s still early and we have a lot of games to play.”
A sellout crowd of 9,149 saw a double-barreled All-American performance also from Louisville’s Asia Durr, last year’s ACC Player of the Year, who finished with 29 points and six rebounds, although she managed only 1 of 8 from three-point range.
Turner contributed 16 points, six rebounds and three blocked shots, while Young had 14 points, six rebounds and five assists.
Both teams had their moments in the first quarter before two Young free throws with 2.2 seconds put the Irish ahead 20-19 at the end of the first 10-minute stretch.
Durr tallied 12 straight points at one point for Louisville, and the Cardinals’ lead was expanded to as much as seven (35-28) before the Irish tallied the final five points to be down 35-33 at the intermission.
At that point, Notre Dame could count its blessings trailing only by two. First, it had committed 11 turnovers to Louisville’s two, with the initial one coming at the 1:42 mark before halftime on a shot-clock violation.
Second, the Irish shot an abysmal 2 of 14 (14.3 percent) in the second quarter. A 9-of-12 effort from the foul line in that same quarter helped make it a one-possession game. Overall, Notre Dame converted only 8 of 27 field goals (29.6 percent) in the first 20 minutes and missed all five attempts beyond the arc.
A trey by Irish senior guard Marina Mabrey to begin the second half scoring helped jump-start the attack, and the Irish took the lead for good at 38-37 when Young grabbed an offensive rebound and fed senior Jessica Shepard underneath for a bucket. The decisive quarter saw Notre Dame outscore Louisville 24-12, capped by Ogunbowale’s three at the horn.
The tables turned with the shooting. The Cardinals converted only 2 of their 11 field goal attempts (18.2 percent) in the third quarter while the Irish were 9 of 16 (56.3 percent).
The Irish are now 2-6 all time in No. 1 versus No. 2 showdowns, including the 89-71 loss to UConn last month. The first win was when No. 2 Notre Dame defeated No. 1 UConn 90-75 in the 2001 national semifinals.
Notre Dame also has won a school-record 52 consecutive home conference games, beginning with a 66-47 win over Providence on Feb. 14, 2012, in Big East play. Over the last 105 games at home, the Irish have only lost three times, with all three coming against UConn.
Up next is a home game Sunday versus Wake Forest.
1. Foul Play
Louisville committed 28 fouls to Notre Dame’s 15, mainly because of Notre Dame’s height advantage inside and an aggressive mindset. Louisville head coach Jeff Walz said the return of Turner to the Irish lineup after sitting out last season with an injury, and now combining with Shepard, makes them more difficult matchup when complemented by the perimeter shooting of the supporting cast.
Getting the Cardinals into foul trouble, and perhaps more tentative later on defense, contributed in part to Notre Dame shooting 17 of 29 from the floor (58.6 percent) in the second half compared to 8 of 27 (29.6 percent) in the first half.
2. Second Chances
Overshadowed in the contest was Shepard’s 13 first-half rebounds (15 for the game) that helped keep the Irish close. Shepard’s rebounding and outlet passing to trigger the fast break, where the Irish are most lethal, has been an underrated element of her game. Notre Dame used its height advantage to outrebound Louisville 48-32 (18-13 on offense) and outscore it 20-5 in second-chance points.
3. Mikayla Vaughn ‘Rebounding’ Into Form
The sophomore forward had ACL surgery late in 2017 after contributing greatly in several early season wins. The first two months this year she wore a cumbersome brace on her leg that seemed to inhibit her mobility, particularly lateral movement. That has been replaced with a more comfortable looking knee sleeve, and in recent weeks it has shown with her play and trademark hustle.
In eight minutes against Louisville she grabbed eight rebounds (four on offense), blocked a shot, dove to the floor to give the Irish possession and scored five points. An elated McGraw said Vaughn is back to her former self and should see more action as the season progresses.