#1 Irish Fall to North Carolina in Closing Seconds, 78-73

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – The No. 1 Notre Dame women’s basketball team battled back-and-forth with North Carolina on Sunday in a game that featured 11 ties and 15 lead changes. The Fighting Irish (19-2, 6-1) rallied down 10 points in the fourth to regain the lead and had a chance to tie the game down three with 24 seconds remaining, but ultimately fell 78-73 to the Tar Heels (12-9, 3-4).
Marina Mabrey led the team in scoring for the fifth time this season with 20 points, which included a season-high tying four threes. Brianna Turner and Jessica Shepard followed right behind with 19 points, while Arike Ogunbowale added 13. Thus, all four senior starters scored all but two points toward the Irish total.
“I thought Carolina played a great game, especially Kea,” Karen & Kevin Keyes Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw said. “We had no answer for her. It was disappointing to see our defense collapse like that. We had some key turnovers late in the game and we haven’t been in that situation enough and we need to practice it quite a bit more.”
How It Happened
All four senior starters had scored by the 5:09 mark in the first, capped by a Mabrey three-pointer, which gave Notre Dame a 14-10 lead. Up 16-10 in the first, the Tar Heels rallied with an 8-0 run over a two-minute span, as Mabrey’s second three of the game ended the scoring spree and pushed the Irish back up top at the end of the quarter, 19-18.
The second quarter continued the back-and-forth battle, as the first half produced six total ties and nine lead changes. The period featured six straight points from Turner followed by five straight from Mabrey. In addition, Notre Dame had recorded a 7-0 run to go up 36-30 but UNC closed the gap right before the half at 36-34. Mabrey and Shepard led the way with 11 points, followed by 10 from Turner.
Turner, Mabrey and Shepard combined for a 6-0 run at 5:35 in the third to go up 44-41. However, North Carolina’s Paris Kea caught fire in third, totaling 19 points in the period behind four three-pointers, to help the Tar Heels outscore the Irish, 21-9, for the remainder of the quarter.
Down 10, at 63-53 with 9:19 left, the Irish fought back, compiling a 12-0 run over a 4:30 minute stretch to regain the lead at 65-63. At 2:39, UNC’s Stephanie Watts connected on a three to push the home team back up 69-68, but Ogunbowale immediately answered with a three of her own at 2:23.
The Tar Heels later hit their 11th three-pointer of the match, via Leah Church, followed by a layup from Kea to go up 76-71 with 40 seconds remaining. Out of a Notre Dame timeout, Shepard answered in the paint, making it a one-possession game with 32 seconds left.
Next, Notre Dame’s defense earned a pivotal turnover, but couldn’t capitalize, committing their own turnover with 18 seconds left. UNC then iced the game with a pair of free throws, resulting in the 78-73 final.  

  • With the loss, Notre Dame’s lead in the overall series drops to 7-2 against North Carolina, with a 2-1 mark in Chapel Hill.
  • Shepard reached a rare milestone in the game, surpassing the 2,000 career point milestone to go with her over 1,000 career rebounds. Shepard and Irish great Ruth Riley are the only two in program history to achieve the feat.
  • Junior guard Jackie Young missed today’s game due to a right ankle sprain sustained in Saturday morning’s practice.
  • Irish drop to 84-4 all-time in ACC play since joining the league for the 2013-14 season.
  • All four senior starters scored all but two points of the team’s total this afternoon.
  • Mabrey notched her fourth game of 20 or more points this season and the 26th of her career. Mabrey connected on four treys, which ties her season high for the fourth time. 

Up Next
The Irish complete their three-game road swing with a trip to Clemson on Thursday, Jan. 31. Tip off against the Tigers is set for 7 p.m. ET on ACCN Extra.