Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw cuts down the basketball net after defeating Stanford 84-68 in a regional championship game in the NCAA women's college basketball tournament, Monday, April 1, 2019, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Tuesday, April 02, 2019 1:20 am
Wrap-up: Notre Dame 84, Stanford 68
VICTORIA JACOBSEN | The Journal Gazette
CHICAGO – It felt like Notre Dame was bound to shake off the shooting doldrums that plagued them in the first half of their 84-68 win Monday over Stanford in the Chicago Regional final. And when it did happen, the Irish went off with a vengeance.
The Irish starting five of Arike Ogunbowale, Brianna Turner, Jackie Young, Jessica Shepard and Marina Mabrey bypassed the 10,000 point mark in the first quarter. (As they started the game just eight points from the milestone, it was later in the first quarter than most would have guessed.) That milestone indicates two facts: that the Irish starters have obvious offensive prowess, and they've had many, many games to perfect it.
During Monday's comeback, that veteran experience was on full display.
"I thought Brianna Turner was playing OK, but the other four really weren't playing like the normally do," Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said of her team's performance in the first half, when they shot just 26%. "Normally somebody is going to pull us out of it, so they did. They kept their composure. I didn't see a lot of frustration out there. We did talk about that at halftime, about their body language and just keep running back on defense, and I thought we definitely kept our composure in the second half."
Unlike Saturday's regional semifinal, when Notre Dame (34-3) beat Texas A&M without a single point from the bench, both Abby Prohaska and Mikayla Vaughn played significant minutes for the Irish on Monday, combining for six points.
"I thought Abby Prohaska gave us such a huge lift," McGraw said. "That momentum really helped turn the game around."
Notre Dame does not typically rely on its bench, a trait that the Irish share with rival UConn, the 11-time national champion that the Irish will meet in the Final Four.
"They played really well against Louisville in the (regional) final yesterday," McGraw said. "That's a team that has so many weapons. Katie Lou (Samuelson) looks like she's back in good form. Napheesa (Collier) has had a fabulous year. (Crystal) Dangerfield is a great defender, and she can score, as well."
Ogunbowale, the hero who hit last-second game-winners in both the national semifinal and the championship game, said her second trip to the Final Four feels much the same so far.
"But it's a long way to go," Ogunbowale said. "We know we're not done yet, so we're celebrating now, but we've got to get back to work."
Notes: Shepard was named to the Chicago Region team with Ogunbowale, who was named Most Outstanding Player. Ogunbowale was also named to the AP's All-American second team, along with Stanford's Alanna Smith. Shepard and Young were named to the third team. ... Monday's final had an announced attendance of 5,555, nearly all of them Notre Dame fans.