Lexington, KY — There’s a first time for everything and today, it was Notre Dame’s first loss in the Elite Eight under head coach Muffet McGraw. The Stanford Cardinal rallied from a 16 point deficit to get to its first Final Four since 2014.
“I think we just got outplayed,” Coach McGraw said. “I think we just felt some pressure. We weren't as loose as we were on Friday. Our shot selection was really questionable.”
It was a battle of two high-powered offenses in the first period. However, at the end, it was Stanford who held the advantage.
Stanford’s ability to capitalize beyond the arc contributed to its success in the first period. The Cardinal were also able to penetrate the Irish’s zone defense to grab six easy points in the paint.
Stanford took an early 6-3 lead after both Karlie Samuelson and Brittany McPhee fired off triples.
Notre Dame responded as Arike Ogunbowale picked up her first points.
The match was back and forth for much of the first period with neither team gaining more than a three-point advantage.
Into the first media timeout, Standford held a three-point advantage after McPhee scored five quick points.
Out of the timeout, the Irish locked down defensively, while Ogunbowale fired up offensively. Ogunbowale was the catalyst for Notre Dame in the latter half of the first period, scoring six points for the Irish to close the period.
A late triple from Samuelson gave the Stanford Cardinal a 24-22 advantage.
Both teams shot higher than 50% in the first period. Stanford knocked down 8-of-14 from the field for 57%, while Notre Dame hit 9-of-16 for 56.3%.
Stanford depended on the three point shooting, grabbing five triples in the first period.
The second period kicked off with a triple from Briana Roberson to extend the Cardinal lead, 27-22. Unfortunately, Karlie Samuelson picked up her second foul and was sent to the bench with 8:35 remaining in the half.
Notre Dame took advantage of Samuelson’s absence, picking up 16 unanswered points, nine of which came from Arike Ogunbowale.
Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw had her Fighting Irish playing zone defense for much of the first period. Seeing Stanford take advantage of the zone, picking up points in the paint, Coach McGraw switched her team from zone to man. The switch limited Standford’s paint touches and ultimately led to Notre Dame getting out in transition and getting easy buckets.
The change in defense confused the Cardinal as Stanford went scoreless for 5:00.
The Fighting Irish dominated the second period, outscoring the Cardinal, 23-7. Stanford’s inability to pick up paint points was detrimental to its offense.
Notre Dame finished the half with a 45-31 lead.
The Fighting Irish shot 56% from the field in the first half, connecting on 18 field goals, including four three-pointers. Ogunbowale was the difference maker for Notre Dame as she knocked down 21 points.
Stanford connected on 11-of-30 from the field for 37%. The Cardinal were on fire from beyond the arc, knocking down six triples, three of which came from Samuelson in the first period. Samuelson paced the Cardinal with 9 points.
After a disastrous second period, the Cardinal came out of the locker room ready to roll. The Cardinal outscored the Irish 24-12 in the third period.
“At halftime, we tried to make some little adjustments, give some people ideas,” Stanford head coach Tara Vanderveer said. “I kind of used the analogy a little bit, we're in Kentucky, and this is horse-racing country. What Kentucky Derby winner starts out and goes pole to pole?”
Stanford was able to solve Notre Dame’s defense. The Cardinal got more paint touches racking up 10 points. But, it was McPhee who was the answer for Stanford.
Stanford’s defense locked down Notre Dame’s offense only allowing the Irish to 26% shooting. Notre Dame was unable to find an answer for McPhee, while the Cardinal successfully shut down Ogunbowale only allowing her to put back 2 points in the third period.
Stanford, down 16 points early in the third period, battled back. The Cardinal sprinted out to a 9-2 run behind Erica McCall, Alanna Smith, and McPhee. Notre Dame was forced to burn a timeout.
But, Notre Dame’s scoring woes continued as Stanford continued to chip away at the Irish’s lead. The Cardinal closed the period on a 12-4 run. Heading into the final quarter, Stanford turned a 16 point deficit into a two point deficit. Notre Dame held a slight advantage, 57-55.
“We lost it in the third quarter,” Coach McGraw told the media. “I don't know what happened. We just couldn't score, and we couldn't defend. I think the more they got on a run, the tighter we got on offense. That was a killer.”
The final stanza was all Stanford. McPhee struck first firing off a triple to give the Stanford Cardinal its first lead since early in the second period.
Stanford and Notre Dame battled back and forth in the last 10 minutes, as the lead changed 14 times.
Notre Dame struggled to gain a significant lead as Stanford was able to, again, keep Ogunbowale quite.
But, it was McPhee who was the key to Stanford’s fourth-period success. McPhee tallied nine points for the Cardinal, including a crucial bucket with under 2:00 remaining to put Stanford up, 72-71. Smith aided McPhee with six points, including the game-winner with 23 seconds remaining.
Notre Dame had a chance to pick up the win and advance to the Final Four. However, the absence of Briana Turner was extremely visible. In a situation where the Irish would have inbounded the ball for Turner to knock down a game winner, the Irish turned to Ogunbowale.
Despite Ogunbowale’s scoring success in the first half, her shot was blocked by McCall and Smith came up with the defensive board to seal the deal for the Cardinal.
When asked about the block on Ogunbowale’s shot, McCall said she had a lot of prayers going through her mind.
“I was talking to God the whole time. ‘Please don't let her make this shot!’,” McCall said. “She came out and I was like, oh, my goodness, she's about to get the shot up. She took a dribble, and I'm like I'm going for it, whether I got the foul or not. I got a nice clean block off of it. We got the win.”
The Stanford Cardinal knocked out the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in a 76-75 decision to advance to the Final Four in Dallas, Texas.
The Elite Eight loss was the first for Notre Dame under Coach McGraw.
On the game, the Cardinal shot 47% from the field. Stanford’s team effort lead to success as the Cardinal dished out 22 assists on 28 made field goals. Three-point shooting was also a huge factor for Stanford. The Cardinal connected on 12 shots from beyond the arc.
Notre Dame shot 45% in the matchup, connecting on 29 field goals. The Irish dominated in the paint, outscoring the Cardinal 36-24.
Stanford had three players notch double-digits: Brittany McPhee paced the Cardinal racking up 27 points on 10-of-17 shooting, 5 boards, and 4 assists. Karlie Samuelson added 15 points on 5-of-9 shooting to go along with 4 assists. All of Samuelson’s buckets came from beyond the arc. Rounding out the top scorers was Alanna Smith who tallied 15 points on 7-of-10 shooting and 7 rebounds.
For Notre Dame, Arike Ogunbowale racked up 25 points and 5 boards. Ogunbowale was the key to the Irish’s first-half success with 21 of her 25 points coming in the first. Marina Mabrey added 20 points for Notre Dame on 9 made field goals. Lindsay Allen rounds out the bunch, nearly missing a triple-double on 10 points, 10 rebounds, and 6 assists.
The Stanford Cardinal fly south to Dallas, Texas where they will face the winner of the South Carolina versus Florida State game on March 31.