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 46 of 55 APRIL 2019 47 WOMEN'S BASKETBALL the tribute rather than engage in the usual rush to their cars in an attempt to beat traffic. They too realized they were witness- ing history and a testimonial on an extra special Senior Day. ARIKE OGUNBOWALE: BASKETBALL IMMORTALITY You know those famous black-and- white videos of Willie Mays' 1954 World Series catch, Bart Starr's game- winning quarterback sneak on fourth down in the 1967 "Ice Bowl" won by Green Bay or even more "recent" epic moments such as Christian Laettner's buzzer beater to defeat Kentucky in the 1992 NCAA Tournament? Fifty, 60, 70 years from now, Ogun- bowale will live on in NCAA Tour- nament basketball immortality with her unprecedented achievement of back-to-back, last-second baskets in the Final Four last spring to defeat two teams (Connecticut and Mississippi State) that had a combined one defeat between them. The program's all-time scoring leader with 2,471 points entering this year 's NCAA Tournament, Ogun- bowale was the most electrifying player in the women's game on the fast break with the ball in her hands the past two years. Her 4.6 assists per game in the 16 conference contests were fifth in the league, just behind teammates Mabrey (5.0) and junior Jackie Young (4.9). While earning national celebrity honors on the talk show circuit and even appearances on Dancing With The Stars, she remained consistent at staying in the moment and never ex- cluding teammates from all team glory. "She's taught me a lot of things about being fearless, about letting things go," McGraw said. "She's left her mark on the program that will last forever." MARINA MABREY: JERSEY TOUGH McGraw has admitted that the Bel- mar, N.J., native might be the only person in the operation more fero- ciously competitive than her, and that Mabrey is unrivaled at making her voice heard. Even after a practice, she and room- mate Ogunbowale will battle one-on- one just to hone each other's game. In the 91-66 victory versus No. 18 Syracuse in the ACC Tournament semifinals, Mabrey's four three- pointers in the contest gave her 263 for her career, setting a new Notre Dame standard that was held 16 years by Alicia Ratay (1999-2003), a starter for the 2001 national champions. Mabrey's all-time percentage beyond the arc is just better than 40.0, which is like batting .300 in Major League Baseball. When both Notre Dame point guards were lost last season by Janu- ary, the ambidextrous Mabrey took on the unfamiliar role and fought through her inexperience there in the drive toward the national title. The most overshadowed three in school history is the one Mabrey con- verted in last year's national title con- test versus Mississippi State when the Irish trailed 58-53 with just less than two minutes left. No score on that possession would likely have ended any national cham- pionship hopes. The crucial trey was fitting for one of the most overshad- owed figures in program history de- spite ranking in the top 10 in scoring with 1,839 points heading into the NCAA Tournament. BRIANNA TURNER: DOUBLE THREAT Few "bigs" in the women's game have ever run the floor from end to end as well as Turner, a former Gato- rade National Player of the Year re- cipient. The three-time ACC Defensive Player of the Year also has a chance to join Ruth Riley (1997-2001), the cen- terpiece of the 2001 national champi- ons, as the only two players in school history to record at least 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds during their ca- reers at Notre Dame. Entering the NCAA Tournament, Turner was at 1,931 points and 990 rebounds. She also had 350 blocked shots — 20 short of Riley's standard. She was playing her best basketball in March 2017 before an ACL tear in the second-round win over Purdue in the NCAA Tournament sidelined her the next season. A supportive and helpful teammate despite sitting out last year, Turner has been referred to as one of the hardest workers ever to come through the program. A testament to the team's talent was that during this year 's 3-0 run through the ACC Tournament, Turner averaged 19.3 points and 7.3 rebounds while shooting 24 of 34 from the floor — and wasn't even a first- or second- team all-tournament selection. JESSICA SHEPARD: THE GODSEND McGraw has called her the greatest transfer in women's basketball his- tory. Shepard also rivals College and Pro Football Hall of Fame member George Connor (1946-47) as the most impactful at Notre Dame. When Turner was sidelined in 2017-18, any aspirations of a national title ostensibly were over. However, on Nov. 1, 2017, the NCAA granted a waiver for the Nebraska transfer to be eligible immediately rather than have to sit out a full season. It was the basketball program's version of receiving bread from heaven. "Then when you saw how Jess was so unselfish and such a great team- mate and so encouraging, the chem- istry was like that," said McGraw, snapping her fingers. "Usually, you would think it would take a while to get that synergy, but they all just blended really well." Shepard averaged 15.6 points and 8.1 rebounds for the national cham- pions and filled the crucial low-post void that would have been absent without Turner. Not content, she shed 40 pounds this season to be more fluid. A point guard in her earlier days of basket- ball, Shepard can handle the ball in the open court and was peerless as an outlet passer to trigger the lethal Notre Dame fast break. Her numbers actually improved to 16.5 points and 9.9 rebounds per game this year while shooting 60.8 percent from the floor and earning first-team All-ACC honors. Including her Nebraska career, the nation's No. 3-ranked recruit in 2015 has joined the rare 2,000-point and 1,000-rebound club. ✦ "Statistically, this is an amazing class. It's never going to be topped … definitely not with four people being drafted in the WNBA. It's unprecedented what they've done." HEAD COACH MUFFET MCGRAW

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Blue and Gold Illustrated - BGI April 2019