The top ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish used a huge second half from senior Arike Ogunbowale to give previously undefeated #2 Louisville their first loss of the season. The senior guard scored 26 of her 30 points in the second half giving the Irish a win in their second #1 v. #2 game of the year. Thankfully, Thursday’s game was a much happier result than the one against UConn in December. Ogunbowale outscored Louisville All-American and last year’s ACC Player of the Year Asia Durr by a single point. Durr had 19 at the break, but was “held” to just 10 in the second half.

The win moves the Irish to 15-1 overall and 3-0 in ACC play. The Irish share the top spot in the ACC with the undefeated and eighth ranked NC State Wolfpack. Coming up, ND will face unranked Wake Forest and Boston College at home sandwiched around a trip to Virginia Tech. After those three ACC games, they’ll travel to #13 Tennessee for a marquee non-conference contest. The game in Knoxville on January 24th will be nationally televised on ESPN.

Quick First Quarter and a Sluggish Second by the Irish

The Irish gameplan was to pound the Cards inside, and that was evident from the opening tip. The Irish scored almost all of their 20 first quarter points in the paint or at the line after getting fouled inside. Louisville, however, kept pace with the Irish in the first quarter, and jumped ahead in the second. The Cards held a slim 35-33 halftime lead, but had multiple starters in foul trouble. Louisville benefited from ND’s 11 turnovers, and turned it over just twice themselves in the opening half. Durr’s 19 points at the break could have been even higher if her three point shot was falling. Durr shot 7/13 in the opening 20 minutes, but was 0/4 from deep.

Jackie Young led ND at the break with 10 points, but needed 9 FGA to get there. The Irish shot under 30% in the first half (8-27), and didn’t make a three pointer. Free throw shooting kept the Notre Dame in the game. The Irish got to the line early and often shooting 23 FTs in the first half, making 17.

The Third Quarter Still Belongs to ND

After the win in the National Championship game last season, guard Marina Mabrey said that “the third quarter is always ours and always will be ours.” That was still the case on Thursday night. The Irish doubled up Louisville in the third to turn a two point deficit into a ten point lead. Mabrey drilled a three to open the quarter, and Arike closed it with a three point buzzer beater. ND locked down on the defensive end, and held Louisville to just 12 points in the quarter. That defense turned into some easy offense as Ogunbowale was lethal leading the break. She scored some transition layups herself, and fed teammates for easy buckets when pressured.

Nail Biter Turns to Comfortable Win Late

The Irish stretched their lead to as many as 12 before Louisville mounted an impressive comeback. Much of it was self-inflicted as the Irish had back-to-back-to-back possessions end with offensive fouls early in the 4th quarter. Muffet McGraw took a timeout, and Mikayla Vaughn scored after a couple offensive rebounds to right the ship. On the next possession, Vaughn made a nice play on defense to tie up a Louisville player for a jump ball. Brianna Turner immediately hit a jumper to extend the lead back to 10 with 5:16 left and give the Irish some breathing room.

The comfortable feeling was short lived, however, as the Cards went on an 8-0 run to cut the lead to just two. Muffet took another timeout with 2:42 left, and Ogunbowale went to work. The Irish All-American scored 14 of the next 16 Irish points, and the run showcased her ability to score all over the court. Arike hit a midrange jumper, an and-one layup in transition, another layup in the half court, seven free throws, and a dagger three with 0:42 left (video below). The senior guard also picked Durr’s pocket to really twist the knife. Cardinals coach Mike Walz’s timeouts and Louisville’s late fouling, gave Ogunbowale enough trips to the line to finish with an even 30 points. She was a perfect 10/10 from the free throw line, and didn’t miss a shot in clutch time.

News and Notes
  • The Ogunbowale steal was a fitting end for the Irish. After Durr won the ACC Player of the Year award last season, McGraw opined that Ogunbowale should have won over “the other player.” As some fans will remember, Louisville coach Mike Walz and McGraw had a “tense” postgame handshake after Louisville’s win in the ACC Championship. Walz said he “wanted to make sure she [McGraw] knew who Asia Durr was.” This season’s Player of the Year race looks to be advantage Arike thus far.
  • While she struggled a bit on offense, Jessica Shepard had a huge game on the boards. She had a game high 15 rebounds, 12 of which were on the defensive glass. Shepard also had a few pin-point outlet passes to start multiple fast breaks for the Irish. ND outrebounded Louisville 48-32 on the night.
  • Briana Turner had a nice game from the field (7/11), but struggled at the line (2/8) with a couple bad misses. Apart from the two students who shot an (estimated) 1/20 during a TV timeout contest, she was the only member of the Irish to struggle at the line. As a team, ND shot 29/39 from the charity stripe.
  • Two freshmen played limited time in the first half for the Irish. Jordan Nixon and Abby Prohaska played a combined 5 minutes. Nixon had a rebound, and Prohaska added a rebound and two points.
  • There was a couple weird official reviews during the game. The first was in the third quarter when the refs reviewed the aftermath of a Louisville foul on Ogunbowale. They were apparently looking to see if Ogunbowale kicked at a Louisville player when they were piled up on the floor. Ultimately, nothing came of the review. The second was a review as Louisville was intentionally fouling at the end of the game. The officials upgraded a seemingly soft foul off-the-ball foul to an unsportsmanlike after the review. They didn’t show replays of either in the arena, but the second was particularly puzzling.
  • This Louisville team’s defense reminds me of some of Pitino’s men’s teams. They bump cutters, and play tight, physical defense on the perimeter daring the refs to blow the whistle. Tonight, the refs did blow the whistle. Two Louisville players fouled out, and all five starters finished with at least three fouls.
  • The game on Thursday night was the first #1 vs. #2 game that didn’t inlcude UConn since a 2013 game between Notre Dame and Baylor.