No. 1 Notre Dame Pulls Away At Tennessee In 77-62 Victory
Tennessee came out in desperation mode as the wounded animal and thrived for one half, but No. 1 Notre Dame’s skill and poise in the second half resulted in a 77-62 victory for its 12th straight conquest to improve to 19-1 overall. The once superpower Volunteers lost a program record sixth straight to fall to 12-7.
Junior Jackie Young recorded the seventh double-double in the program’s history with 16 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists, while senior Arike Ogunbowale tallied 28 points, 24 of them in the second half on 9 of 13 shooting from the field, with two of the baskets coming beyond the arc.
After scoring on its opening possession, Notre Dame missed 11 straight field goals before settling in to trail only 17-14 after the first quarter. The Volunteers upped took their largest lead to 24-16 before the Fighting Irish converted seven straight from the field while temporarily retaking the lead at 29-28.
Tennessee regrouped to take a 34-31 advantage into the intermission before the decisive third quarter began and saw Ogunbowale outscore the entire team by herself during those 10 minutes, 16-12. Notre Dame took the lead for good at 39-38 on a Young assist to Shepard in the midst of 11-0 Irish run.
The Vols tied it at 44, but the Irish finished the quarter with an 11-2 spurt for a 55-46 lead after three quarters. Ogunbowale recorded 16 of Notre Dame's 24 points in the quarter on 6 of 9 shooting from the field, including the two treys.
Senior Marina Mabrey opened the fourth quarter with an NBA distance three as the Irish began another 8-0 run to outscore Tennessee 19-2 from the end of the third quarter to the start of the fourth. The largest lead was at 73-52.
“We had to keep getting it inside, and once we kept getting it inside it opened up the perimeter,” Ogunbowale told ESPN’s Holly Rowe after the game.
“Everybody on our team can score,” said Young nonchalantly about her triple-double. “It’s really hard to focus on one player. Tonight we had a good team win.”
"Our offense was way out of rhythm to start the game," head coach Muffet McGraw said. "We tried to get the ball to the post but settled for jumpers,. Once we started to get it inside, I thought the high-low game was really effective."
Up next is a trip to North Carolina on Sunday before going back down to Clemson on Thursday. Both games will be telecast the ACC Network.
Three Point Play
As Ogunbowale noted, the inside game opened up the perimeter. Seniors Jessica Shepard and Brianna Turner quietly scored 13 points apiece, but forced Tennessee to pick its poison. Just as pertinent were Shepard’s 11 rebounds — her seventh double-double this year and third straight — and superb outlet passing that triggered Notre Dame’s lethal fast break time and again. If there is a better outlet passer in America in the women’s game, it would be a surprise.
Meanwhile, Turner blocked four shots, took an early charge, and her presence on the inside led to numerous other hurried attempts.
2. Break Time
It seems difficult to believe that Notre Dame outscored Tennessee only 16-8 in fast-break points, because in both the first and second half the Irish seemed to repeatedly beat the Vols down the court for easy buckets. Notre Dame entered the game sixth nationally in scoring average with the fast break (17.9). Ogunbowale can go coast-to-coast with superb body control as well as anyone, and few “bigs” can run the court as well as Turner and Shepard, never mind Shepard’s outlet tosses.
Maybe it seemed like more against Tennessee because 48 of the Irish points came in the paint. The Irish half-court offense reminds one of Dean Smith’s vintage teams at North Carolina where an open 12-footer would be passed over for an even higher percentage eight-footer — and then that could still lead in a third pass for a lay-in underneath.
3. Sam Brunelle & Anaya Peoples Named McDonald’s All-Americans
Both 2019 Irish recruits were selected on Thursday to the 12-woman teams that will be played March 28 at State Farm Arena in Atlanta. The 6-2 forward Brunelle is ranked the No. 4 player in the nation by ESPN Hoopgurlz and will play for the East, while the 5-10 guard Peoples, ranked No. 21 overall, will be on the West.
Despite some significant rebuilding next year with the loss of four starters with prolific careers, the Irish will still have six McDonald’s All-Americans on the roster next with Young, current sophomore forward Danielle Patterson, freshman guards Jordan Nixon and Katlyn Gilbert (out this year after shoulder surgery) and the two incoming prospects.