It was the ultimate survive-and-advance moment for Notre Dame late Sunday night.
Playing without injured ACC Defensive Player of the Year Brianna Turner in the second half, and with fellow starting forward Kathryn Westbeld also playing through injury and in foul trouble, the No. 1-seeded Irish (32-3) squandered a 16-point lead (60-44) in regulation time and fell behind in overtime before displaying the resilience to post an 88-82 triumph against No. 9 seed Purdue (23-13).
The Irish advance to play No. 5 seed Ohio State in the Sweet 16 of the Lexington (Ky.) Regional on Friday.
Somewhat overshadowing a tremendous game and display of mental fortitude on both sides was when Turner (10 points and two assists in 15 minutes), after scoring six straight points, went down with an injury with 48 seconds left until halftime and the Irish ahead 45-31. Turner clutched at her left knee for a few minutes while getting attended to by the medical staff. She eventually walked into the locker room on her own power and came out in the second half unaided still in uniform, but was unavailable to play.
An MRI was scheduled for Monday to assess what damage was done and whether she will be sidelined for the remainder of the NCAA Tournament.
Minus Turner, the Irish offense began to stagnate in the fourth quarter without the high ball screens from Turner, but her absence was even more conspicuous on defense as Purdue became much effective inside and on drives without Turner cutting them off in rotation.
The Boilermakers shot only 13 of 32 (40.6 percent) from the field in the first half when Turner was mostly in the lineup, but 15 of 28 (53.6 percent) in the third and fourth quarters. Just as significant, the Irish fouled 13 times in the second half without Turner’s presence (they fouled only five times in the first half) and Purdue took advantage by converting 12 of 14 free throws in the final 20 minutes of regulation.
“We wanted to get inside originally but she made it a lot harder to get inside,” Purdue senior forward Bridget Perry, who finished with 22 points, said of Turner. “I hope she heals up.”
“With our shot blocker not in the game, it changes our defense,” Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw acknowledged.
Sophomore Marina Mabrey paced five Notre Dame players in double figures, tallying 21 points, highlighted by a couple of clutch free throws with 13 seconds left in overtime to give the Irish a four-point cushion (84-80). A minute earlier with the shot clock about to expire, Mabrey desperately heaved a contested turnaround jumper that banked in to give Notre Dame an 82-78 lead.
“When people hit banks that usually aren’t banks, you know that good things go for the other team most of the time,” Purdue head coach Sharon Versyp said.
“I was just thinking we really need to score right now and I can’t turn this over,” Mabrey said of putting up the shot that capped the pivotal 6-0 run after the Irish fell behind 78-76.
“That’s a prayer that got answered for us, finally,” McGraw said. “We said a lot of prayers on the sideline throughout that game.”
Sophomore guard Arike Ogunbowale finished with 18 points, converting the last four free throws in the game, notably the two with 8.7 seconds left in overtime that extended the lead to 86-82.
Freshman Jackie Young provided a tremendous lift off the bench with 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting from the field, and also added six rebounds, four assists and a blocked shot in 38 minutes.
Senior point guard Lindsay Allen played all 45 minutes and did not have a turnover while handing out eight assists and scoring 12 points. Her backdoor feed to Young for a layup tied the game at 78 in overtime, and she gave the Irish the lead for good (80-78) on an aggressive drive with 2:15 remaining.
After Notre Dame converted only 6 of 17 (35.3 percent) field goals that resulted in a 17-13 Purdue lead after the first quarter, the Irish exploded in the second quarter with 32 points on 14-of-20 (70.0 percent) shooting from the field, including 3 of 4 from beyond the arc.
Sparking the detonation on both ends of the floor were freshmen Young at guard and Erin Boley at forward. The duo tallied the first 12 points of the second quarter to give the Irish a 25-22 lead that eventually ballooned to 45-33 at halftime.
In 13 first-half minutes, Young finished 5 of 5 from the floor for 11 points to go with three assists and three rebounds. Boley was 3 of 5 for seven points, including 1 of 2 from three.
“Really, really happy with the youth on our team,” McGraw said. “They sure didn’t play like they were freshmen and sophomores tonight, and we needed every single thing they did.”
Aiding the cause was Mabrey, who drilled two threes and a reverse layup for eight second-quarter points.
Meanwhile, Purdue also converted only 6 of 17 from the floor in the first quarter and almost repeated that with a 7-of-17 effort in the second quarter.
Minus Turner, Purdue sensed opportunity to rally and threatened several times before ending regulation time with a 10-0 run in the final 5:12 to knot the game at 74-74 and force the overtime.
The Irish offense was in a “play not to lose’ mode while trying to milk the clock, twice getting called for shot-clock violations and several other times forcing hurried shots with the shot clock winding down. Notre Dame scored only eight points in the fourth quarter while making 3 of 12 (25.0 percent) from the field and missing their last seven shots.
“We completely fell apart offensively,” McGraw said of the fourth quarter. “It’s just so different without Bri when you’re in the ball screen because they have to worry about her. Then we were forced to go one-on-one — that’s not our game.”
In overtime, the Irish displayed enough adjustment, motion and mental toughness to score 14 points in the five minutes.
“We went into some different sets to try to get Lindsay one-on-one without the ball screen, and I thought that was better,” McGraw said.
Born around 319 B.C., Pyrrhus was a Greek general and future king whose victory over the Romans came at great costs. Thus, the term “Pyrrhic victory.”
Notre Dame might have had such a conquest Sunday night at the Purcell Pavilion, depending on what Turner's MRI results show on Monday.
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