Nov. 25, 2017
ESTERO, Fla. – The No. 6/6 University of Notre Dame women’s basketball team powered past No. 17/16 South Florida, 76-66, on Saturday at Germain Arena, advancing to the Gulf Coast Showcase Championship contest.
The Irish (5-0) picked up their second victory against a top-20 ranked opponent, topping the Bulls (5-1) for the opportunity to meet South Carolina in the tournament finale.
“It’s really good for us,” Karen and Kevin Keyes Women’s Basketball Head Coach Muffet McGraw said on playing in Sunday’s title game. “We’ve played a few games against ranked teams already, but it’s good to be able to challenge ourselves against a great South Carolina team.”
How It Happened
Led by Jackie Young‘s seven first-quarter points, the Irish pushed the tempo, shooting 52.4 percent in the opening period. Notre Dame utilized an 8-0 run to jump out to a 21-9 lead at the 2:30 mark, keeping the Bulls off the scoreboard for nearly four minutes.
Later, the Notre Dame defense held the Bulls scoreless over the final 2:21 of the second quarter, claiming a 41-28 advantage at the halfway mark.
South Florida’s Kitija Laksa kept USF close, going 7-for-14 with 18 points in the first half, while the rest of the Bulls’ roster went just 5-for-18 from the field. Yet, on the Irish side, Notre Dame spread the wealth as eight different players had scored by the half.
“I was really happy with our execution,” McGraw said. “We got shots. We didn’t make them all, but we got shots.”
The Irish and the Bulls battled defensively in the third period, when South Florida went without a field goal from 4:19 to 0:19. Jessica Shepard and Arike Ogunbowale each contributed six points in the quarter, and Notre Dame led 58-42.
South Florida used a 13-4 run midway through the fourth to cut the Irish lead to 67-58. Ogunbowale and Young responded, each tallying nine points in the final minutes of the quarter to help Notre Dame to a 76-66 victory.
Player of the Game
Young continued her hot start to the season, scoring a career-best 23 points and collecting seven rebounds. The performance marked her fifth straight game with double-digit points and second this season with 20 or more.
- Irish scored over 20 points in the first quarter for the second straight game and third time this season. Also marked the second time this season the Irish shot over 50 percent in the opening period.
- Ogunbowale recorded her fifth straight game with double-digit points (21) and third this season with 20 or more.
- USF’s Laksa totaled 36 points, just two shy of the record for most points scored by an opposing player against the Irish (38 by Latasha Byears from DePaul on Jan. 16, 1995). Laksa finished 9-of-11 from three-point range.
- Notre Dame outrebounded USF, 42-25, including 16 offensive rebounds to the Bulls’ seven.
- Irish also outscored the Bulls in the paint, 48-22.
- Jessica Shepard led the team in rebounding for the fifth straight game, reeling in eight boards. She entered tonight’s game ranked second in the ACC in rebounding.
The Irish will square off against No. 3/2 South Carolina in the Gulf Coast Showcase Championship at 7:30 p.m. ET on Sunday. The Gamecocks previously defeated St. John’s, 76-58, in the semifinal on Saturday.