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Irish fall short of Final Four

For the second straight year Stanford ended Notre Dame’s NCAA Tournament run, this time with a 76-75 victory Sunday in the Lexington Regional Final at Rupp Arena.

After losing All-America forward Brianna Turner to a knee injury, the Irish used their perimeter prowess to blowout Ohio State in the regional semifinal two days earlier. This time, however, it was Stanford (32-5) who used its outside shooting, connecting on 12-of 26 from beyond the arc, to help erase a 16-point deficit en route to the victory. It was Irish head coach Muffet McGraw’s first loss in eight trips to the Elite 8, and the squad finished with a 33-4 mark.

Once again, Notre Dame was led by Arike Ogunbowale who paced the team with 25 points, while Marina Mabrey added 20. The historic career of senior Lindsay Allen, whose 149 consecutive starts is believed to be a NCAA record, came to an end with another double double after posting 10 points and 10 rebounds.

For the Cardinal, Brittany McPhee torched the Irish for 27 points, 14 more than her season average. She was joined by Alanna Smith and Karlie Samuelson who each added 15.

It was a tale of four quarters and a game that started to mirror Notre Dame’s victory over the Buckeyes, but one that ended much differently. The Irish and Stanford kept the game close in the first period, and owned a 24-22 lead at the end of the first 10 minutes of play. And then, much like it had two nights earlier, Notre Dame peeled off a big run in the second quarter to take a 45-31 cushion into the locker room at halftime.

As expected, the Cardinal responded with a run of its own. But this time, the Irish had trouble answering. After the end of three periods, Stanford had closed the gap and trailed by just one bucket, 57-55. The final 10 minutes proved to be an anxiety-filled game for both fan bases as there were 13 lead changes and six ties.

Down 76-75, the Irish held the ball for one last shot which didn’t fall but they were able to haul in the rebound with 2.2 seconds remaining. One final attempt by Ogunbowale was blocked by Stanford as time ran out on the Irish.

“These four years here have been something beyond my imagination,” said an unusually emotional Allen, who helped Notre Dame to a 139-10 (.933) record when she was in the starting lineup. “I could never imagine coming here to Notre Dame and playing for Coach McGraw. I just wanted this so bad for my teammates. It’s so sad to end at this moment.

“These four years have been the best years of my life. I’ve had some of the greatest teammates ever. It’s just been a really great experience to play here at this elite level and play for Coach McGraw.” Top Stories