Blue and Gold Illustrated

May 2018

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

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20 MAY 2018 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED In the second half, Villanova was only 8 of 24 from the field — and 0 of 5 from three-point range. "Her presence on the court kind of poises and calms everybody else," Mabrey said of Westbeld. "She came into the game and reminded us that this isn't how we play — with or without me. She reminded us that we are going to play defense." "We're just a very different team with her," McGraw said of Westbeld. In the next four contests, Notre Dame was on the cusp of elimina- tion while ostensibly running on fumes. • In the Sweet 16, it was down 37-24 to Texas A&M (which defeated the Irish in the 2011 national title con- test) before winning 90-84. • In the Elite Eight, Notre Dame trailed Oregon 46-37 before rallying for an 84-74 conquest. • In the Final Four, the Irish were primed to get their doors blown off while falling behind UConn 41-30. • Finally, in the finale versus Mis- sissippi State, the 40-25 deficit in the second half had going to the well once too often written all over it. In the rally against A&M, Mabrey tallied 25 points while converting an NCAA Tournament school-record seven treys in 11 attempts, and dished out a career-high nine assists. Ogun- bowale scored a team-high 27 points. The Aggies came within 68-67 in the opening of the fourth quarter, but a Mabrey to Ogunbowale feed for a lay-in began an 11-3 Irish run. Two days later, Pac-12 champion Oregon converted 58.8 percent of its field goal attempts (20 of 34) in the first half. However, the explosive Ducks managed only 28 second-half points while shooting 8 of 31 (25.8 percent) from the field and 1 of 11 from three-point range. Oregon came into the game leading the country in three-point shooting (40.4 percent). Notre Dame also crushed the Ducks with a 51-29 rebounding ad- vantage (19-6 on offense). Westbeld led another balanced attack with 20 points on 9-of-12 shooting from the floor, while Ogun- bowale and Jessica Shepard had 19 and 18, respectively. Mabrey's versatile output included 15 points, seven rebounds and seven assists, complemented by disruptive defense. Young pulled down a game- high 13 rebounds to go with six as- sists and eight points. VANQUISHING NO. 1 & NO. 2 Complacency with just getting to the Final Four would have been un- derstandable by Notre Dame, espe- cially because it next had to face 36-0 and No. 1 Connecticut in its national semifinal. The Huskies' dynasty had won seven in a row versus the Irish, including finishing with a 22-3 run in December to defeat Notre Dame 80-71. Most impressive in the March 30 encounter, though, was how the Fighting Irish kept their composure when they appeared to be on the verge of collapsing. • UConn opted to focus its defense on stopping Mabrey, Shepard and Ogunbowale — and Young capital- ized, slashing to a career-high 32 points while also pulling down 11 rebounds. • Connecticut outscored Notre Dame 27-10 during one stretch to build a 41-30 lead and threaten to run away, but the Irish managed to cut it to 41-34 by halftime. • With 6:44 left in regulation, the Huskies were still ahead 67-59 … but UConn began to become more rattled in the rare tight situation it faced. • After Notre Dame had taken a 79-74 lead with 21.3 seconds re- maining, UConn's Napheesa Collier drained a three and then Kia Nurse RANK & FILE During the 2012-13 season, Notre Dame finished 3-0 against top rival Connecticut in the regular season plus the Big East Tournament — but it was the Huskies who eventually won the national title. This year, after winning 11 straight games against ACC rival Louisville, the Irish were 0-2 this season versus the Cardinals, who also advanced to the Final Four — but it was Notre Dame that earned the national title. By "earned," it meant playing the nation's No. 1 strength of schedule and defeating more ranked teams (13) than any in the country. When one looks at the final Associated Press poll, it is replete with Notre Dame victims: No. 2 Mississippi State (61-58), No. 3 UConn (91-89 in overtime), No. 5 Oregon (84-74), No. 6 South Carolina (92-85), No. 8 Oregon State (72-67), No. 11 Texas A&M (90-84), No. 12 Duke (72-54), No. 14 Florida State (100-69 and 90-80), No. 16 North Carolina State (86-67), No. 17 Tennessee (84-70), No. 23 DePaul (91-82) and No. 24 South Florida (76-66). — Lou Somogyi From left to right, the starting five of Marina Mabrey, Jackie Young, Jessica Shepard, Arike Ogunbowale and Kathryn Westbeld carried the injury-depleted Irish to the program's second national crown. PHOTO BY MIKE BENNETT

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