Feb. 25, 2018
NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- Through all the adversity and challenges overcome, the No. 5 University of Notre Dame women's basketball team are ACC regular season champions for the fifth consecutive year. The Irish (27-2, 15-1) picked up its nation-leading eighth ranked win on Sunday after defeating No. 21 NC State (22-6, 11-4) by the score of, 86-67, inside Purcell Pavilion.
"That's the first deep breath I've taken since November 1," Karen & Kevin Keyes Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw said. "I'm just so proud of this team and what they've overcome. We just kept losing people throughout the year and we never put our head down and never felt sorry for ourselves. They just came back to work every single day. They stepped up individually and as a team.
"They handled the adversity and that's the kind of thing that we want to teach them. That's what sports does for you - it teaches you a lot of life lessons and handling adversity is definitely one of them. I couldn't be prouder of any team. This is definitely the most rewarding championship I think we've had."
How It Happened
An Ogunbowale three-pointer kick-started a 7-0 run at 8:19 in the first, in which seniors Kathryn Westbeld and Kristina Nelson got in on the action, with the latter making her first career start. A Marina Mabrey three in the final minute gave the Irish a 17-16 edge over the Wolfpack at the end of the period.
The Irish defense forced four turnovers in the first three-and-a-half minutes of the second quarter to jumpstart an 8-1 run, in which Notre Dame went 4-for-4 from the field. Ogunbowale supplied the offensive power in the period, exploding with 10 points, including seven straight for the Irish, to finish with 13 at the half. As a result, Notre Dame boasted a 39-31 advantage over NC State at the break.
A 12-6 NC State start to the third quarter cut Notre Dame's lead to just two points at 45-43, but an Ogunbowale three-pointer halted the Wolfpack rally and ignited a strong 21-6 Irish push over the remainder of the period. Westbeld tallied six straight points from 4:34 to 3:21, followed by a Mabrey trey at 1:42 and Ogunbowale's fourth three-pointer of the game right before the buzzer to give the Irish a 66-49 advantage.
The final quarter opened with a 7-0 Irish start that carried the momentum all the way into the 86-67 final and an ACC regular season title.
Co-Players of the Game
Jackie Young and Arike Ogunbowale combined for 43 points this afternoon. Young led with 22 points, just one shy of her career high, on 8-of-11 shooting, to go with her six rebounds, five assists and four steals. Meanwhile, Ogunbowale recorded her ACC leading 19th game of 20-plus points with 21 today.
Stat of the Game
Notre Dame earned its seventh straight regular season conference title (last two in Big East) with today's victory over NC State, and fifth consecutive since joining the ACC. Seven straight regular season titles is the third highest active streak in the country, only behind Baylor (8) and Green Bay (20). Five straight ACC regular season titles is now one shy of the all-time mark set by Virginia from 1991-96.
- Notre Dame leads the all-time series vs NC State, 6-1, with a 2-0 mark at home.
- Today's win clinched Notre Dame's fifth straight ACC regular season title and seventh consecutive regular season league title when dating back to the final two years in the Big East. The seven straight is the third best active streak in the country.
- The win over No. 21 NC State was Notre Dame's eighth against a ranked opponent this year, which ties UConn for the most in the country.
- Today's victory was also Notre Dame's 23rd straight at home and 50th straight win at home over a conference opponent.
- Also marked Notre Dame's 13th win against a RPI Top-50 opponent, which leads the nation.
- After five seasons in the ACC, Notre Dame is now 77-3 in league play.
- The Irish celebrated Senior Day today, honoring Lili Thompson, Mychal Johnson, Kristina Nelson and Kathryn Westbeld before the game.
- Ogunbowale earned her ACC leading 19th game of 20 or more points with 21 on 8-of-19 shooting today. Ogunbowale tied her season high with four made three-pointers.
- Young earned her eighth game of 20-plus points with 22 this afternoon on an impressive 8-of-11 shooting, including a 6-for-7 day from the free-throw line.
- Westbeld tallied her ninth game in double figures with 16 points, tying her career high of eight made field goals.
- Mabrey earned her 22nd game in double figures with 17 points. Mabrey went 3-for-5 from beyond the arc.
The Irish will look to make it a fifth straight ACC regular season and tournament title sweep, when they head to Greensboro for the ACC Tournament. Notre Dame received the double bye and will be the No. 2 seed in the tournament, with their first game taking place in the quarterfinal round on Friday, March 2, at 6 p.m. ET.