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No. 1 Irish Seek Program's Second National Title this Weekend in Columbus

March 29, 2018

NCAA Final Four
2018 Irish NCAA Central: Click Here
Where: Columbus, Ohio | Nationwide Arena
National Semifinal: vs No. 1 UConn (36-0)
When: Friday, March 30 | 9:30 pm ET
Watch: ESPN2 | Adam Amin, Rebecaa Lobo, Kara Lawson, Holly Rowe
Championship Game: vs No. 1 Miss State (37-1)
When: Sunday, April 1 | 6 pm ET
Watch: ESPN | Post-game special following on ESPN2
Westwood One Sports | John Sadak, Debbie Antonelli, Krista Blunck
Listen: Pulse FM 96.9/92.1 | Bob Nagle
Social: @NDWBB | #GoIrish
Band Send-offs: Friday 7:30 p.m. at the Sheraton Columbus Capitol Square (75 E State St)
Sunday at 3:30 pm at the Sheraton
Updated Title Game Notes: Notre Dame | Miss State

COLUMBUS, Ohio – All eyes of the NCAA Division I women’s basketball world are locked upon Columbus, Ohio, this weekend as the 2018 Final Four begins on Friday at Nationwide Arena. The No. 1 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (33-3) will once again renew its rivalry with No. 1 UConn Huskies (36-0) in Friday’s second semifinal game, slated to begin at 9:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2.

The Irish are competing in their eighth Final Four, and if victorious against the Huskies, will make their sixth ever NCAA Title game. Sunday’s championship bout will take place on Sunday at 6 p.m. ET on ESPN.

Notre Dame and UConn will link up for the 48th time on Friday, with the Huskies leading the all-time series at 36-11. However, when it comes to the NCAA Tournament, the two sides are deadlocked at three wins apiece. Furthermore, Notre Dame is hoping to have a little history on its side, for in 2001, the Irish defeated the Huskies in the national semifinal before going on to claim the program’s lone national title. The Irish also knocked off UConn in the national semifinal in 2011 and 2012.

The two sides met earlier this season (Dec. 3) in front of a sold-out crowd at the XL Center in Hartford. Notre Dame recorded a 24-4 scoring stretch in the first half to take a 43-36 halftime lead. Plus, the Irish boasted a 10-point lead (68-58) with 7:48 remaining in the game before UConn stormed back to win 80-71.

The Irish are averaging an impressive 92.8 points per game during the NCAA Championship and are the only Final Four team to have scored over 80 points in all four games played. The Irish starting five have averaged 84.2 of those points, which is more than each of Louisville’s and Mississippi State’s entire team.

Furthermore, Arike Ogunbowale holds the highest scoring average of any player at the Final Four, averaging 25.0 points on 44.4 percent shooting during the NCAA run. More impressive is the fact that Ogunbowale has gone 22-of-23 (.957) from the free-throw line during said stretch.

Next up is Jessica Shepard, who is 1-of-5 Final Four players averaging at least 20.0 ppg during the NCAA Tournament. Right behind her is Marina Mabrey, who is averaging 19.5 ppg. Thus, Arike and Jess are the highest scoring duo of the Big Dance, then add Marina and they are the highest scoring trio as well.

Mabrey is potentially eying one of the greatest three-point shooting performances in NCAA Tournament history, as the junior enters her first Final Four. Mabrey has connected on 17 three’s during Notre Dame’s NCAA Championship run, which is not only more than any other player at the Final Four, but five off from the all-time Tournament mark of 22 set by Kia Nurse in 2017. Her .630 three-point shooting percentage also stands as the best of any player at the Final Four (min 10 att.)

Her best NCAA game was a 25-point performance vs Texas A&M in which Mabrey converted seven treys, including five in the first half alone. The seven three’s were the most by an Irish player in an NCAA Tournament game and the most overall since Alicia Ratay hit seven against Providence on Feb. 16, 2003.

Overall, Mabrey has knocked down 83 three-pointers, which stands as the second most for a single season in ND history. Sheila McMillen (1998-99) holds the top spot with 98. In addition, Mabrey has hit a three-pointer in 16 straight games, which ties for the fifth most in program history.

Tied at 45-all at the half in Notre Dame’s Second Round matchup vs Villanova, the Irish “broke glass in case of emergency” and called upon Kat Westbeld. The senior, who injured her ankle after three minutes of play vs CSUN and who was doubtful for Villanova, started the second half and ignited a spark within the Irish. Notre Dame went on to outscore the Wildcats, 53-27, in the second half. Villanova, who was 10-of-15 from three in the first half, went 0-for-5 in the second.

The hero of the game, Westbeld, finished +30 in plus-minus (49-19).

Next round – with the Irish just up 85-82 with 1:12 remaining against Texas A&M, Westbeld hit a game clinching jumper from the free-throw line that triggered a 5-0 Notre Dame run and berth into the Elite Eight.

Next round – Finished one-point shy of her career high with a team best 20 points on 9-of-12 shooting vs Oregon. Her nine made field goals however did mark a career best.

Notre Dame has had its fair share of All-American point guards, but due to the injuries of Lili Thompson and Mychal Johnson, a program first just occurred during this postseason. For the first time, three Irish players have recorded over 100 assists for a season: Mabrey with 163, Young with 137 and Ogunbowale with 103.

As a team, the Irish are averaging 19.2 assists per game, which ranks sixth in the entire country. Notre Dame’s 691 total assists ranks fifth all-time in school history, and sits just seven assists away from taking over the No. 3 spot on the list. Furthermore, Notre Dame’s 1.39 assist-to-turnover ratio would tie for the second highest all-time.