CHICAGO – Consider this a sweet repeat for Notre Dame.
Arike Ogunbowale scored a career-high 34 points, Jessica Shepard added 24 points and 14 rebounds, and the defending national champion Fighting Irish beat Texas A&M in the Sweet 16 for the second straight year, 87-80 on Saturday.
Ogunbowale, last year’s Final Four hero, scored 24 in the second half. She had 12 in the final 6:45 to help the top-seeded Fighting Irish (33-3) advance to the Elite Eight of the women’s NCAA Tournament for the eighth time in nine years. They will play No. 2 seed Stanford – a winner over 11th-seeded Missouri State – in the Chicago Regional final on Monday.
“The bigger the moment, the bigger she plays,” coach Muffet McGraw said of Ogunbowale. “She’s not afraid of a big moment by any means. There were a lot of times we were just running stuff for her, and we ran a lot of sets for her, and she responded incredibly well. She has just got that mentality of, ‘I want the ball in a clutch situation,’ and she’s not afraid to miss.”
Ogunbowale, the Irish’s career scoring leader, surpassed her previous high of 32 points. Shepard dominated down low, and Notre Dame scored another tournament knockout over the Aggies with its 12th straight win.
Chennedy Carter led Texas A&M (26-8) with a season-high 35 points in another impressive NCAA performance, though she took 34 shots. The sophomore guard came in averaging just more than 30 points in five career tournament games and had the touch from long range, nailing 7 of 12 3-pointers.
Kayla Wells scored 18. But it was an all-too-familiar result against Notre Dame for the fourth-seeded Aggies.
“Notre Dame played damn good. We played almost damn good,” Texas A&M coach Gary Blair said.
Stanford 55, Missouri State 46: Alanna Smith and Stanford outlasted the Lady Bears (25-10), sending the cold-shooting Cardinal (31-4) back to the Elite Eight for the third time in four years.
Stanford shot a season-low 25 percent (17 for 68) in one of its worst offensive performances of the season. But Smith and Anna Wilson supplied just enough scoring, and the Cardinal used their superior length to hold the 11th-seeded Lady Bears to 25.4 percent shooting (16 for 63), also a season low for the last double-digit seed left in March.
“I think the feeling on the team was we weren’t worried,” said Smith, who finished with 13 points. “We know that we can hit down those shots, and we weren’t today, so we had to go to something else.”
Danielle Gitzen had 14 points and eight rebounds for Missouri State, which had won seven in a row. It was Missouri State’s first appearance in the Sweet 16 since Jackie Stiles led the Missouri Valley Conference team to the Final Four in 2001.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.