Blue and Gold Illustrated

BGI April 2019

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 45 of 55

46 APRIL 2019 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED WOMEN'S BASKETBALL BY LOU SOMOGYI F orty-three years ago, the Indi- ana University men's basketball program completed its second consecutive perfect conference record in the highly competitive Big Ten. It then went on to capture the 1976 national title without losing a single game (32-0), the last such team in the men's game to achieve the extraordi- nary feat. Prior to the accomplishment, then 35-year-old head coach Bob Knight told a home audience to take a final, appreciative look at the graduating five-man senior class — headlined by first-round picks Scott May, Quinn Buckner and Bobby Wilkerson — be- cause "you'll never see another one like it." Indiana would go on to win a cou- ple more national titles under Knight in 1981 and 1987, but the unique ac- complishments of that particular se- nior group indeed have never been matched by any men's team in the country. Senior Day 2019 for the Notre Dame women's basketball this March 3 had a similar feel … and perhaps someday in the 2060s and beyond it will be spoken about in the same reverential tone. It is unlikely ever again that college basketball — men's or women's — will witness a Senior Day with more prolific, balanced and accomplished seniors than what the Fighting Irish had with the quartet of guards Arike Ogunbowale and Marina Mabrey, and forwards Jessica Shepard and Brianna Turner. It wasn't the "classic" Senior Day in which everyone in the group enrolled together. Ogunbowale and Mabrey did in 2015, but Turner actually arrived a year earlier, while Shepard trans- ferred into the program in 2017 from the University of Nebraska, located in her home state. After capturing this year 's ACC Tournament for the fifth time in its six-year history in the league, the ca- reer numbers at the collegiate level for the four were astounding — and still counting while entering the NCAA Tournament. They had amassed 8,486 career points in college, with each averaging a double-figure output all four seasons. It is virtually unimaginable to see one quartet ever doing something like this ever again. Among a men's senior class at Notre Dame, the five-man graduat- ing class in 1971, headlined by Austin Carr and Collis Jones, had 5,255. Even when not including Shepard's first two seasons at Nebraska, the overall figure at Notre Dame would be 7,374. Collectively, the group also grabbed 3,217 rebounds and dished out 1,450 assists. "Statistically, this is an amazing class," Notre Dame head coach Muf- fet McGraw said. "It's never going to be topped … definitely not with four people being drafted in the WNBA. It's unprecedented what they've done." Far more pertinent is that national title produced last season while striv- ing toward a repeat this season and checking egos at the door despite the vast amount of star power. "We had no drama," McGraw em- phasized. "When you have 12 women, that doesn't happen very often. They took care of things in the locker room. "… Their mentorship, their leader- ship, they're so ready for the next level, and yet they never came into practice and just went through the motions. They worked hard every day." Traditionally on Senior Day there are pre-game introductions with a four- minute maximum allotment permitted by the ACC to recognize each player. Capsulizing each individual in four minutes was unacceptable to McGraw and her coaching staff, so that was bypassed in favor of an end-of-game ceremony that celebrated each player in a video tribute. Especially telling was a large percentage of the sell-out audience in Purcell Pavilion stayed for NEVER BEFORE, NEVER AGAIN Senior Day this season featured four players with unparalleled career production From left to right, walk-on Maureen Butler, Brianna Turner, Jessica Shepard, Marina Mabrey and Arike Ogunbowale on Senior Day. Prior to the start of the NCAA Tournament, the latter four had combined for 7,374 points, 3,217 rebounds and 1,450 assists during their time at Notre Dame. PHOTO BY MICHAEL BENNETT

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of Blue and Gold Illustrated - BGI April 2019