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WBB: Ags fall short in Spokane

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A&M fights to the end but Notre Dame survives and advances

NCAA Womens Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Spokane Regional
The Ags kept getting back up vs the Irish until the end.
James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

The Women’s Bouncy Ball fell short in their bid to upset 1 seed Notre Dame on Saturday afternoon in the Spokane regional.

Notre Dame scored the first 5 points of the game on a layup by Jessica Shepard and a 3 pointer by Marina Mabrey, and the fear of a slow start loomed. But the Ags would answer with to tie the game at 5. Through the middle of the first quarter, Notre Dame would take a small lead and A&M would answer. But after another Mabrey 3 pointer gave the Irish a 17-13 lead coming out of the media timeout, A&M would go on a 10-0 run to go up 23-17. A late turnover by Kayla Wells allowed ND’s Jackie Young to break the drought, but Young would foul Carter on a 3 point attempt. Carter, who had struggled with FTs early, sank all 3 to give the Ags a 26-19 lead after the first quarter. A&M shot 10-15 in the first quarter.

The Ags started the second quarter looking like there might be a dominant upset. A&M got the lead to double digits and was out-hustling Notre Dame. But a lot of the energy was coming from Anriel Howard, and when Lashes was called for her second foul with 7:46 left in the half, Notre Dame took advantage. At first Carter and the Ags extended the lead, but then the Irish took over in the second part of the quarter. The lead would get down to a single point late in the quarter and A&M only took a 2 point lead into the intermission at 47-45. This is a pace that would be well above A&M’s season average. Carter had 15 points at halftime and was responsible for drawing many of the fouls that led to an 11-0 edge in FT attempts. Unfortunately A&M shot below the season average from the line; the announcer said they thought some precautionary tape on Carter’s shooting arm might have affected her FTs. Despite sitting for 10 minutes with fouls, Anriel had 15 points at half. Notre Dame was led by Mabrey with 17, 15 of which came on 3 pointers.

It was tied at 51 early in the 3rd quarter after Anriel got a putback on a miss by Carter. But then Mabrey hit her 7th 3 pointer of the game from the left corner on an inbounds play. That started a 9-2 run that put the Irish up 60-53 with 4:28 remaining in the 3rd. The Ags would play pretty much even for the rest of the quarter but were down 68-63 going into the final period. A&M had been outscored 23-16 in the third quarter. Carter had 7 of the 16. 6 came from Anriel, and a 3 by Danni.

The Ags rallied again to start the 4th, cutting the lead to 1. But Arike Ogunbowale scored 4 in a row and later hit yet another 3 pointer on an inbounds play (the 4th time ND got a trey off a dead ball) to make it 77-70 with 6:10 remaining. Anriel would get her 4th foul with 5:46 remaining, allowing Jackie Young to go off for the Irish. But Young’s burst only kept ND ahead as Carter and Howard hit 3 pointers on 3 straight possessions to make it 81-85 with 2:38 to go. Notre Dame ran the clock down and got the ball in to Shepard on the right side of the lane. Khaalia blocked the shot and Carter almost came up with the loose ball but stepped on the end line. ND couldn’t get a shot off and the Ags came down with a chance to cut into the lead. Carter ran around a pair of screens at the top of the key and drove the right side. Westbeld was called for a blocking foul.

Carter would make 1 of 2 FTs. Notre Dame brought the ball down up 3. The Ags left Westbeld open at the FT line and Mabrey found her for a jumper that Muffet McGraw would later call the key basket of the game. Lumpkin and Hillsman were both on Shepard and Jaz was slow to come back out to challenge the jumper. It made it a 2 possession game with 1:15 to go. That could have been enough time, but after neither team could score and Carter was fouled on a rebound, Blair called a timeout with 42 seconds remaining to set a play and advance the ball. The Ags got the ball in to Danni but she couldn’t shake her defender and passed to Anriel at the top of the key. Howard had hit 2 3 pointers earlier so she let it fly with 38 seconds left and It was too early in the shot clock (27 seconds left) and the Ags had to foul after the miss.

That was the ball game.

Final score: Notre Dame 90, Ags 84.

  • Carter led the Ags with 31 points. She had 7 assists and 4 turnovers. It was her second 30+ point game in a row. She finishes the year as the single season scoring average record holder at 22.7 ppg. Danielle Adams is second at 22.3. Her 816 points put her second all time to Adams, who had 847 in 2010-11.
  • Anriel had 26 points and 14 rebounds for her 20th double-double of the year. Anriel’s 439 rebounds for the season demolished Peggy Pope’s 360 in 1978-79.
  • Khaalia Hillsman finished her A&M career with 13 points 6 rebounds and 3 blocked shots. She is 9th in career points, 5th in rebounds, 3rd in blocked shots, and 2nd to Anriel in double-doubles.
  • Arike Agunbowale led the Irish with 27 points. Mabrey added 25. Young and Shepard were also in double figures with 15 and 13 points, respectively.

Two stats jump out to me:

  • the obvious one is 10-18 on 3-pointers vs 7-15. IN the postgame presser, Blair noted the number of the ND 3s that came off of inbounds plays, and 4 is too many. But I masochistically went back and watched all of the made 3s from Notre Dame. In addition to the inbounds plays, I counted a couple where the decision to leave Mabrey or Ogunbowale open in the half-court offense was just odd. In particular, Mabrey’s at 8:50 of the second, where Danni leaves her while she’s dribbling, and Ogunbowale’s at 3:35 of the second where Kayla leaves her to double team a player who is less of a threat.
  • The less obvious one is the number of missed FTs. The team has been shooting 77.2% on the year. On Saturday they went 11-20.

The loss stings, but it was a good year overall. Thanks to the team and the coaches for making us proud and to GBH for letting me cover WBB. And by next Fall, I hope to be back to explaining how excited I am for the 2018-19 season.