Arike Ogunbowale helps defending champ Notre Dame avoid Sweet 16 upset

CHICAGO — She did not look like Notre Dame’s biggest nightmare, standing a mere 5-foot-7 and heaving up I-can’t-believe-she’s-shooting-from-out-there shots. But every time Chennedy Carter made one of those shots, or injected some of her swagger, it seemed to fire up the Texas A&M basketball team even more. And made a nervous crowd full of green T-shirts gulp.

With the help of their own game-changing guard, Arike Ogunbowale, the defending national champions managed to see another day in the women’s NCAA basketball tournament. Ogunbowale led Notre Dame to an 87-80 win over Texas A&M with a career-high 34 points, moving them to a Monday night date in the Elite Eight with the winner of Stanford-Missouri State.

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Ogunbowale screamed, “Let’s go!” as she lay on the floor after hitting a falling shot as she was fouled, and her three-point play gave Notre Dame an eight-point cushion with 3:14 to go.

The senior provided the turning point of the game a few minutes earlier, when she swished a 3-pointer to break a 69-69 tie, then stole the ball and converted a layup to bust open the game. The crowd erupted, and the momentum had swung. From there, Texas A&M wasn’t the same.

The 26-8 Aggies brought a physical and up-tempo style to Wintrust Arena, and Carter was the catalyst. She sank 4 of 5 3-pointers in the first half. She dribbled and drove the Aggies to a 42-all tie at halftime.

Carter finished with a season-high 35 points on 34 field goal attempts, the second-most attempts in a game in NCAA tournament history and the most since Drake’s Lorri Bauman in the 1982 tournament (35).

This was the first NCAA tournament game over the last 20 seasons with opposing players each scoring 30 points.

The thing about Notre Dame’s prolific offense is that opponents can’t shut down one or two players and hope for the best. The Irish got 15 points from senior Jessica Shepard in the first half. She finished 24 points, 16 rebounds and six assists with to become just the fifth player with multiple career 20-point, 10-rebound, five-assist games in the tournament in the last 20 seasons. Jackie Young added 14 points, and Brianna Turner finished with 12.

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