March 4, 2018
GREENSBORO, N.C. — Twice down the final 3:11 of Sunday’s ACC Tournament title game, the No. 5 University of Notre Dame women’s basketball team found itself down just one point, threatening to push ahead of No. 4 Louisville. However, the No. 2 seeded Irish (29-3) could not find the go-ahead basket by the time the clock struck zero, as the No. 1 seeded Cardinals (32-2) emerged with the narrow, 74-72, victory.
Jessica Shepard recorded her second straight double-double and 11th on the year with 23 points on 10-of-14 shooting to go with her 10 boards. In addition, Arike Ogunbowale earned her second straight game with exactly 20 points, going 8-of-17 from the field.
“I thought that Louisville played a really good game. I thought they made big shots when they had to; they had some huge offensive rebounds,” Karen & Kevin Keyes Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw said. “I thought the offensive rebound kick-out was probably the dagger in the game-winning shot.
“We had some opportunities that we squandered, but our execution wasn’t quite as good. I think that’s because of their defense. They did a great job defensively and we were not able to really see the mismatches when we had them. I thought we could have gotten the ball into Jess a little bit more, but I thought Jess played a great game.”
How It Happened
Notre Dame found itself down 19-14 in the closing minutes of the first quarter, but Jessica Shepard scored five straight points and started a 7-0 run, as the Irish regained the lead at 21-19, before ending the quarter tied at 21. Shepard finished with 11 points in the opening period, going 4-for-4 from the field and 3-for-3 from the free-throw line.
The second quarter continued the back-and-forth battle as evidenced by the first half accumulating eight ties and 11 lead changes. Yet the Irish fought on to claim a narrow 37-35 lead at the break behind a defense which held Louisville to one field goal (1-of-7) in the final four minutes.
Skipping ahead to 7:12 in the fourth quarter where the Irish found themselves down 59-52. Yet, out of a timeout, Notre Dame rallied with a 10-3 run, cutting the score to 63-62 with 3:11 to play. A Jackie Young jumper at 1:42 kept the game tight at 65-64, while Shepard connected on Notre Dame’s seventh straight field goal from the floor with 21 seconds left to keep it a one-possession game at 68-66.
However, Notre Dame couldn’t muster the key stop as Louisville connected on seven free-throws in the final 24 seconds, which included an and-one, eventually taking the final at 74-72.
The Irish will rest up as they await Selection Monday on March 12. The 2018 NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship bracket will be unveiled on ESPN at 7 p.m. ET.