The beautiful thing about sports is the unknown. This why the games are played and wins are just not handed out. The Irish played on heck of an opponent in Texas A&M. Let me be more specific, Texas A&M Sophomore Guard Chennedy Carter. Carter was the teams offense, as well as the teams promoter of swagger. The Irish knew coming in that she would be a force to be reckoned with. The question was how to contain her. This time of the year playing an opponent like the Aggies is good for a team that wins typically by thirty, it keeps you honest to what you are.
Does anyone remember last year’s UConn team last year? Beating teams easily and not having to face adversity. When they faced the Irish, they didn’t know how to respond to the adversity Notre Dame was giving them. Adversity is a must. Without it you cannot learn how to handle those situations.
The first quarter did not have the same feel as other first quarters throughout the season. The Fightin” Irish scored on 9-18 attempts. The Aggies were 8-17 attempts. What made the first quarter close was the fact the Irish did not attempt a three-point shot, the Aggies were 2-5 from distance. The Irish played a foul free quarter. But the Aggies got in a jam early as Chennedy Carter got two fouls in the first quarter. Coach Gary Blair though concerned about Carter’s foul situation, he will more than take her two three pointers and layup.
For the Irish, Brianna Turner put the first two points via the Free Throw line. Jessica Shepard on the other hand had the next 11 points for the Irish. 10 of those points were via layup. Shepard also added three offensive rebounds to the stat sheet. Turner ended the quarter with four points including a buzzer beater layup. Turner also played great defense, two blocks and a defensive rebound. Her height continues to devastate opponents. The Irish win the first quarter 21-18.
After the first quarter break, both teams got right back to work. Both teams never went on a major run in the quarter. This was going to be an epic battle amongst these two teams. Turner opens up the quarter with a layup. To marginally open the Irish lead. But these two teams were not able to open a huge gap to really make the other nervous. Trading baskets is the most scary thing in basketball. Because once you don’t keep pace, the game is over.
With two fouls, Carter had to play careful on defense as she could not afford to garner any more fouls. Not only does that affect her defensively, it affected her offensively as well. Tallying on eight points in the second quarter. The Irish defense held her to two three pointers and a layup. The Irish defense silenced her for the final 6:08 of the quarter. Her teammates picked up the slack though combining for 12 points in the paint after Carter’s last three pointer.
Offensively, the Irish were sharing the wealth on the court. The Aggies were playing good defense as well. Limiting the Irish to 50% shooting again in the period, showed the Aggies had done their homework. The first three pointer for the Irish came at 1:09 from Marina Mabrey. The main difference in the game is that the Aggies had shutdown Young. Young’s two points came from the charity stripe. The Aggies win the second quarter 24-21, but the score was 42-42 at the half.
Coach McGraw is famous for turning her team around at halftime. Saturday night was no different. Coming out of the halftime break the Irish offense laid a quick four points (Shepard had 4, Ogunbowale had 2, and Turner 2) on the Aggies forcing Coach Blair to take a very early time out. After the Aggie time out, Carter is ignited and picked up fro where she was in the first quarter. Carter couldn’t be slowed and scored 12 of the the Aggies 20 points. The Aggies also played chippy quarter as well. The team garnered five personal fouls in the quarter.
The Irish defense did what they needed to do. They forced the Aggies to 40% shooting and allowed the offense to score 23 points and shoot 54% from the field. Ogunbowale’s 12 points, including two free throws paced the Irish in the third quarter. Th e team as a whole racked up 13 rebounds, six offensive and seven defensive and six assists. The Irish outscored the Aggies 23-20 and win the third quarter.
Coach Blair definitely gave a speech at the end of the third quarter as his team came out on fire. The Aggies open the quarter on a 7-0 run and propelled them back to a lead over the Irish. That would be the last lead for the Aggies as the Irish defense tightened up and the Irish offense would pull away. Foul trouble negated Carteras she got two more fouls in the fourth quarter. Carter tallied eight points in the fourth quarter with her last basket coming at 1:46. Chennedy Carter finished with 35 points, including 7-12 from three point range. But, the Irish have Arike to neutralize her.
Ogunbowale finished the game with a career high 34 points, 5 defensive rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals. That is a busy afternoon. Jessica Shepard got another double-double. 24 points, 14 rebounds (6 offensive, 8 defensive), 6 assists and 1 steal. Jackie Young got a silent 14 points 8 rebounds
(3 offensive, 5 defensive) and 2 assists. Brianna Turner addednto the stat sheet with 12 points, 6 defensive rebounds, 1 assist and 4 blocked shots. The Irish move onward to victory by the score 87-80.
Post Game Conference
Coach Gary Blair Texas A&M
“First, this is what women’s basketball needed. You just saw six games that were all double-digit wins that were a little bit of a runaways. We just played arguably maybe the best team right down to the wire. We don’t ever give up. We find ways to get the job done. It was a tremendous ball game. I had to call time-out two minutes into the second half. They made a couple of good plays. We made mistakes. We had our chances.”
“That’s all you can want. But folks, this is what women’s basketball needs right now. They don’t need the double-digit wins and all of that. We lost the ball game probably because of the paint points that they got, whether it was Arike posting up or their two bigs inside, and this is why they are better this year than they were last year, because of Turner. She changes the game, rushes shots.”
“But the heck with them. I want to talk about these three right here, okay. I’m going to tell you one thing, all you people that are out there listening, if she doesn’t make State Farm All-American this year, something is doggone wrong. Now, think about it; why does she have to wait until she becomes a junior or a senior just because there’s very quality at the top? And you saw one out there tonight. But if she’s earned it, and she has, and she’s done it for two straight years, this is a kid that needs to be All-American this year, and I’ll go to bat for her and what she’s doing, and I’m proud of her. This one right here, she controls the boards, controls the rebound, does a great job. She’s our captain and our leader.”
“And the one down there, she doesn’t know who Jamaal Wilkes is. Maybe you young ones don’t, either. But he was called “Silk” back then when he played for the Lakers, and this is our version of Jamaal Wilkes and “Silk” because she’s so smooth. She’s so smooth.”
“But give credit to this team. Notre Dame is probably the best team we’ve played this year, them and Mississippi State. So give them all kudos. Muffet made some great calls. Their high-low game was hurting us. That’s why they’re defending national champions .”
Coach McGraw Press Conference
“I thought Gary Blair did an outstanding job this year to get his team back to the Sweet 16. They had a whole new team built around Carter, though she is a phenomenal player. We obviously struggled to guard her.”
“I think it was a really entertaining game to watch even if you didn’t care who won, just a lot of great shots, a lot of big shots. I thought Jessica Shepard with the double-double, she was unstoppable down low, and then Arike hit big shot after big shot. I thought the steal for a lay-up late in the game I thought probably is the one that sealed the victory. Arike wins it with a defensive stop, I think that should be the headline. “
The Fightin’ Irish will look to advance to the Final Four when they square off with the Stanford Cardinal on Monday in the Regional Final at Wintrust Arena. Tip off is at 9 PM ET/8 PM CT, and will air on ESPN2.
Cheers and Go Irish!☘🔥⚡