CHICAGO – With an 87-80 win over Texas A&M, Notre Dame is headed to its 10th Elite Eight and its eighth in nine years.
It's not mystery why Notre Dame's golden era, which includes last year's title and trips to the championship game in 2011, 2012, 2014 and 2015, has extended to include yet another trip to the regional finals.
At the post-game press conference, seniors Jessica Shepard and Arike Ogunbowale talked about how they feel about the fact that their starting lineup is just eight points away from a combined total of 10,000, a mark they will surely break in Monday's game against Stanford.
"I think it's something that's hard to kind of wrap your head around, but I think it's just due to the coaches putting us in the position to score and then us just being willing to play together," Shepard said.
Those starting five scored all of Notre Dame's 87 points, as Abby Prohaska was the only bench player to see any significant playing time Saturday.
It's not that the Notre Dame starters couldn't have used the rest: the game was fast-paced and physical, as several Texas A&M players, including leading scorer Chennedy Carter, racked up two early fouls.
"I mean it's simple: you get two fouls early, you're not going to complain," Carter explained. "Keep playing! Keep your head together. It's fine. Stay within the system and keep playing defense."
"If it would've been any other team we were playing, she'd have been brought to the bench," her coach, Gary Blair, added. "I'd have had to trust my bench. But when you're playing Notre Dame, the game could've been over in the first quarter."
Carter is a demonstrative player, and she and the Notre Dame players clearly fed off each other's competitive energy. After hitting particularly impressive buckets, Carter stepped back and stared down her shot, and with less than a minute to go Ogunbowale was given a technical for celebrating a layup off a fast break.
"I mean, it was justified," Ogunbowale said of the technical. "I got a little too excited and let my emotions get the best of me, but it's basketball, so it happens. I'm glad we were up by enough that those two free throws didn't tie it up or something.
"But I've got to be smarter than that, but like I said, it's basketball, I was in the moment."