They did it! The Notre Dame Women’s Team just played their regional final in the NCAA Tournament and won! Tonight, in Spokane, WA., the #1 seed Fighting Irish faced the #2 seed Oregon Ducks for a chance to go to Columbus, OH this weekend to play in the Final Four. After a back and forth game, the Irish imposed their will (and relied on the Ducks going cold offensively). Eventually, the Irish were in the midst of Duck Season to get that W. Here is how it all went down.
The Irish and Ducks both kicked off the game on some offensive spark. After some quick buckets and seemingly easy layups from both teams, it looked like this was going to be one of those “first team to 90 wins the game” type of games. However, it somewhat evened out throughout the game. Marina Mabrey didn’t shoot much and even didn’t touch the ball much of the first quarter. Arike Ogunbowale, Jackie Young, and Jessica Shepard led the way. Arike controlled the pace, while Jessica dominated under the basket. That was all pretty typical. The Irish took a 22-21 lead into the second quarter.
The second quarter saw the Ducks come alive. It was frustrating but also insansely impressive. The Ducks have their phenomenal guard, Sabrina Ionescu. She played so very well in the second quarter. She created space and could shoot from anywhere on the floor with a great shot. She played all 40 minutes for the Ducks and had 26 points. Most of those came in this second quarter with her perfectly timed shots. Couple that with our players struggling a bit, and we found ourselves down 46-40 at the half.
After struggling down the strech in the second quarter, the Irish found their stride through the first 5 minutes of the third quarter. They started to put way more pressure on the Ducks, particulary Ionescu. Additionally, the team settled down, particularly Arike when she ran the offense. With 5 minutes left in the third, the Irish had a 15-5 run. They rode that momentum through to the fourth quarter. In that fourth quarter, the Irish stayed consistent and found shots while keeping the pressure on the Ducks. There was so much pressure that Ionescu went cold in the second half. She only went 1-9 from the field in the second half. It was one of the x-factors for the Irish to get the W. Final Score: 84-74. They got it done!
The Irish have made the Final Four! Given all of the adversity with the injuries this season, it is without a doubt one of the most amazing feats that a team could accomplish during a season. After getting demolished by Louisville and going down 22 points to Tennessee, it was looking like this season was going to be a dud. However, with only 7 players, absolutely excellent conditioning, and a will to dominate, the Irish scoffed at all of the adversity. They have now gotten to the Final Four. This team and Muffett/ the entire coaching staff deserve the highest of praise for this job. However, the job is not done.
On Friday night around 9 PM on ESPN (the second game), the Irish will play old-time, common, and hated foe UConn. This national semifinal will be for a chance to make it to the National Championship game. As a side note, UConn, as well as the other teams in the Final Four (Louisville and Miss. St.) are also #1 seeds. UConn is of course dominant, and they also beat us in Hartford in December. We will absolutely be looking for revenge. I have no idea how it will go down, but never count this team out of anything.
I’m so damn proud of what they have done. It is now onto the next step in Columbus. Go Irish. Beat Huskies.