Ogunbowale’s 27 points lead No. 5 Irish over No. 6 Lady Vols
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Notre Dame’s biggest-ever comeback win was also a bounceback from its recent humiliation by a top-10 opponent.
Arike Ogunbowale scored 27 points, and the fifth-ranked Irish rallied from a 23-point deficit early in the second quarter to beat No. 6 Tennessee 84-70 on Thursday night.
The Irish (17-2) came back behind an aggressive defense that forced 28 turnovers by Tennessee (16-2), including 15 in the second half. The previous biggest deficit that the Irish had overcome in a victory was an 18-point hole against Duke in the Junkaroo Jam on Nov. 26, 2011.
Notre Dame won its second straight after losing 100-67 at No. 2 Louisville on Jan. 11.
“I am so proud of this team right now because of the fight,” said coach Muffet McGraw, in her 31st season with the Irish. “We went down to Louisville and got our (butt) kicked. We had something to prove. The difference was our defense in the second half. We got deflections, we got steals. We got rebounds and that got us in our transition game.”
Tennessee led 60-50 after three quarters, but a 12-0 run by the Irish coincided with a nearly three-minute scoreless skid by Tennessee to give Notre Dame a 70-65 lead with 4:12 to play that it would not relinquish.
Meme Jackson scored 18 points for the Lady Vols, who lost for the second time in eight days after winning their first 15.
“We’ve been pretty gritty and we’ve been pretty tough,” Tennessee coach Holly Warlick said. “I don’t think we were gritty and tough today overall for 40 minutes.”
Marina Mabrey finished with 20 points, Jackie Young scored 18 and Jessica Shepard had 12 for Notre Dame.
Jaime Nared scored 14 and three players — Rennia Davis, Mercedes Russell and Evina Westbrook — each had 12 for Tennessee, which shot 57 percent to the Irish’s 48 percent. Tennessee also outrebounded the Irish 34-27, but its 28 turnovers were 16 more than Notre Dame.
“Down the stretch we were just throwing the ball out of bounds,” Warlick said. “We just needed to throw the ball to the people in orange. We were throwing it to the people in green up in the stands.”
The Lady Vols used runs of 10-0 and 11-0 in the first quarter while shooting 68.4 percent from the floor (13 of 19) to take a 27-10 lead. Notre Dame hit just four of its first 17 shots and was outrebounded 14-5 in the quarter. Russell had six points despite sitting out the last four minutes after taking a hit in the nose.
Tennessee’s biggest lead was 37-14 with 7:03 remaining in the second quarter. But Notre Dame closed the period on a 13-2 run with eight points by Ogunbowale, who had 10 at halftime. The Lady Vols went scoreless in the final 5:33 and led 39-27 at the break.
“When Arike gets going, it gets everyone else going,” Mabrey said. “She’s super-motivating.”
Tennessee hit five of its first six shots and had a 7-0 run, highlighted by back-to-back baskets by Jackson, for a 52-37 lead with 4:49 left in the third quarter. Eight turnovers by the Lady Vols allowed the Irish to cut the lead to 54-46 before a pair of 3-pointers by Davis and Westbrook.
Notre Dame responded with a 34-10 fourth quarter, forcing seven turnovers while hitting 12 of 20 shots, with Ogunbowale scoring 13 points.
“I guess the Louisville game helped us in a way,” Ogunbowale said. “We know we can come back. We just took it step-by-step and tried to cut into their lead in five-point margins.”
Ogunbowale tied the game at 65 with a pair of free throws with 5:48 to play, and Notre Dame closed with a 19-5 run.
Tennessee: The Lady Vols are 1-2 in their stretch of four straight games against ranked teams that ends Sunday. After winning their first 15 games and starting 3-0 in the SEC, Tennessee lost at No. 17 Texas A&M in overtime before rebounding with a victory at No. 9 South Carolina last Sunday. No. 3 Mississippi State awaits the Lady Vols Sunday in Knoxville.
Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish have an 18-game winning streak at Purcell Pavilion. They have spent 204 consecutive games in the AP Top 25 and 134 straight weeks in the AP Top 10.
Tennessee: Hosts No. 3 Mississippi State on Sunday.
Notre Dame: Hosts Clemson on Sunday.