TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said she’d hoped her team would play a little sooner this week to get over the loss to Connecticut.
But Saturday would have to do.
Paced by Arike Ogunbowale’s 22 points, the No. 2 Irish stopped Toledo 72-56.
“I think we hoped that we would’ve played Thursday,” McGraw said. “I think we were anxious to get out, and I think we ran out of gas a little. The adrenaline was pumping.”
Jessica Shepard scored 16 points and had eight rebounds. Jackie Young had 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Irish (8-1), who pulled away after leading by six points at halftime in front of the third-largest crowd in Toledo history.
“It was really packed and really loud,” Ogunbowale said. “Their fans were in it the whole game, which you don’t see a lot for 40 minutes.
“We wanted to get out there earlier, but I think for what’s going on, we’re got finals coming up, so it was tough for a lot of people to be mentally there. But I think we overcame that.”
Notre Dame played its first game since an 89-71 loss to UConn last Sunday. It snapped the Irish’s 13-game win streak, including last season’s national championship.
The Irish and Huskies switched spots atop the rankings this week. McGraw also publicly apologized for her team’s behavior in the loss. Ogunbowale also tweeted an apology to fans after she earned a technical foul and unsportsmanlike foul late in the game.
On Saturday, Notre Dame clamped down on defense in the third quarter, allowing just eight points for Toledo while the Irish took a 58-45 lead. Young and Ogunbowale scored four points apiece during an 8-0 run that gave Notre Dame its first double-digit lead at 53-40.
After shooting 55.2 percent in the first half, Toledo was 7-for-32 shooting (21.9 percent) after halftime.
“When you’re missing shots, it’s tough to catch them in transition,” Toledo coach Tricia Cullop said. “When you miss a shot, and Arike is running the floor, that’s not your average guard. She’s pretty quick.”
Mikaela Boyd scored 15 points for Toledo (6-3), which entered with a four-game win streak. Mariella Santucci and Kaayla McIntyre each added 10 points.
Toledo led most of the first quarter, but Notre Dame scored six straight points before a jumper by Boyd beat the buzzer with the Irish leading 23-20.
Notre Dame went most of the first half without a 3-pointer until Marina Mabrey made two late in the second quarter to give the Irish a 43-37 lead at halftime.
Mabrey scored 11 points and made three 3-pointers. Notre Dame was 30-of-56 shooting (53.6 percent) from the field and out rebounded Toledo 39-28.
The visiting Irish attracted 6,059 fans at Toledo’s Savage Arena.
“There’s only one or two places in the (Atlantic Coast Conference) that can compare with this,” McGraw said. “This is definitely one of the best home crowds and toughest places to play, especially with the band and the students right there. They really add a lot to the game.”
The win was No. 896 for McGraw’s career. A perfect finish to 2018 would give McGraw 900 on Dec. 30 against Lehigh, and she’d become the fourth-fastest coach to reach the milestone. Four wins would give her 900 in 1,172 games, trailing just UConn’s Geno Auriemma, Tennessee’s Pat Summitt and Stanford’s Tara VanDerveer for fastest.
Ogunbowale is now nine points away from becoming the fifth Notre Dame player to reach 2,000 career points. She is on pace to top Skylar Duggins-Smith’s career Irish scoring lead of 2,357 points this season.
Cullop said Ogunbowale and Delaware’s Elena Delle Donne were among the best opponents her teams have seen.
“What’s hard about this is Notre Dame doesn’t have just Arike,” Cullop said. “Every player on the floor is a formidable opponent, so you can’t really worry about one player.”
SHE SAID IT
“I’ve known coach McGraw since I was a high school recruit, she tried to recruit me, and she’s been making me pay for not going there ever since,” said Cullop, who went to Purdue in 1989, making three NCAA Tournament appearances as a player.
Notre Dame: The Irish have four games, including at No. 18 Marquette, before competing in the ACC.
Toledo: Hanging with an elite national program should boost the confidence of Cullop’s team as Mid-American Conference season looms. The Rockets were projected to take second in the MAC West by the league’s coaches.
Notre Dame: Hosts Binghamton on Dec. 16.
Toledo: Hosts Stony Brook on Dec. 18.
The Western Journal has not reviewed this Associated Press story prior to publication. Therefore, it may contain editorial bias or may in some other way not meet our normal editorial standards. It is provided to our readers as a service from The Western Journal.
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