Jackie Young set the tone, Arike Ogunbowale created some distance and Brianna Turner and Jessica Shepard shut the door on Michigan State as defending NCAA champion Notre Dame advanced to its 10th consecutive Sweet 16 with a 91-63 victory Monday in South Bend, Indiana.
Those four Irish starters reached double-figure scoring for the second consecutive women's NCAA tournament game. Young was relentless from the opening tip, driving to the basket and attacking the offensive glass. She had nine points, two assists and four offensive rebounds in the first quarter. Michigan State had no answer for her physical play and athletic ability.
The Spartans trailed 28-19 early in the second quarter, but then played into Notre Dame's hands by missing a lot of quick shots. The Irish's transition game got going and was devastating. Over a 5-minute, 25-second stretch, Notre Dame made 8 of 10 shots and went on an 18-1 run. While five different Irish players scored in the run, Ogunbowale either scored or assisted on eight straight points in the decisive stretch that put the Irish ahead 47-20.
Notre Dame led 52-26 at the half, and Young and Ogunbowale combined to equal the Spartans' point total. Ogunbowale finished with a team-high 23 points and handed out five assists, and became the first player in Notre Dame history to score 2,500 career points.
Had the game been more competitive, Young might have earned her third triple-double of the season. She sat much of the fourth quarter and still recorded 21 points, 11 rebounds (six offensive) and 7 assists. Shepard had 19 points and 9 rebounds, while Turner added 14 points, 11 rebounds and 4 blocks -- and passed Irish legend Ruth Riley to become Notre Dame's all-time leading rebounder.
Michigan State, which beat Sweet 16 participants Oregon and Iowa earlier in the season, suffered the worst NCAA tournament loss in program history (28 points). Sidney Cooks led the Spartans with 17 points.
The Irish have won their two tournament games by an average of 35 points, and have won 11 in a row by nearly 30 points per game. But Marina Mabrey continues to struggle offensively. The senior, who is dealing with a sore knee, averaged 13.5 points per game during the regular season, but has scored just two points in the two NCAA tournament games.