Monday, April 1, 2019

Green’s five takeaways from Notre Dame’s 84-68 win over Stanford in the Chicago regional final

Photo Credit- Robin Alam- Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

By: Geno Green
Twitter: @TheGenoGreen

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish (34-3) scrapped and clawed their way through a 10-of-39 (25.6 percent) shooting start to a near-perfect second half with 58 points on the path to an 84-68 win over the Stanford Cardinal (31-5) in the Chicago regional final at Wintrust Arena.

1) Sweet revenge for Arike:

Despite all of the accolades Arike Ogunbowale has accomplished at Notre Dame, the blocked shot by Erica McCall as she went towards the paint with seconds left still lingered as Stanford came out on top 76-75 in the teams’ last NCAA tournament meeting on March 26, 2017 in the Lexington regional final.

Fast forward two seasons to an April evening in the windy city with a pro-Irish crowd and Ogunbowale got the sour taste out of her mouth with 21 points and played a vital part in the second half resurgence by Notre Dame.

“That taste has been out of my mouth, but it was definitely a good win. They put us out in my freshman and sophomore years, which was tough,” Ogunbowale said. “To finally get it back, that’s big, but they’re a great team and played us well.”

2) The Jackie Young show:

In a performance reminiscent of last Monday’s Michigan State game, Jackie Young opposed her will on Stanford as she scored 11 of Notre Dame’s 13 points in a 3:59 stretch, which stretched from the third to fourth quarter.

The highlight came at the start of the run with a running floater to give the Irish their first lead since the 9:17 mark in the first quarter at 45-44. The more the crowd got active, the more Young felt at ease and seized possession on her way to a game-high 25 points, to go along with 10 rebounds for her 11th double-double of the season.

“I feel like I was aggressive for the whole game and kept that same mindset as the shots were starting to fall. The (Stanford) defense was sagging off me a little bit, so I had to read the defense and take whatever they gave to me,” Young said.

3) 10,000-point mark eclipsed for Notre Dame starting five:

The Notre Dame starting five has been hailed as arguably the best in school history and Monday night added to another list of achievements.

Brianna Turner’s jumper in the late stages of the first quarter put the Irish starting five in a class of their own becoming the first in women’s basketball school history to eclipse the 10,000-point mark as a unit.

Fighting Irish coach Muffet McGraw downplayed the accomplishment as it was more being able to make a ton of shots as a group.

“I mean, it’s a milestone and certainly the first time it’s been done, men or women. It’s pretty amazing, but it really doesn’t mean anything, except they get a lot of shots,” McGraw said.

4) Prohaska makes small, but timely impact:

On a loaded team filled with future WNBA draft picks, freshman Abby Prohaska grabbed a small piece of the spotlight with a pair of layups and a critical defensive stop towards the end of the third quarter as the Irish took control with a 52-46 lead.

McGraw did not let Prohaska’s effort go unnoticed as it gave the bench player a taste of experience for what is to come for the next three seasons.

“I thought Abby Prohaska gave us such a huge lift. That momentum really helped turn the game around,” McGraw said.

5) Auriemma and McGraw meet once more on the Final Four stage:

When you think of the gold standard of women’s college basketball coaches— Connecticut’s Geno Auriemma and Notre Dame’s Muffet McGraw are at the top of most people’s lists.

The iconic coaches square off for the sixth time and for the second straight season in the national semifinal round on Friday night in Tampa. 

Last season’s meeting in the Final Four produced a finish for the ages as Ogunbowale’s 19-foot jumper from the wing proved to be the game-winner in Notre Dame’s 91-89 win in overtime. 

The Huskies exacted their revenge on Dec. 2, 2018 with an 89-71 road win over the Fighting Irish in the Jimmy V women’s classic. McGraw knows a better mindset in the latest installment will go a long way to getting a step closer towards repeating as national champions.

“We really lost our composure in that game, so hopefully we have learned a lot of lessons since then,” McGraw said.

UConn and Notre Dame will be a treat for the basketball universe to witness and a showcase for the women’s game on the biggest stage.