CHICAGO (AP) — Arike Ogunbowale scored a career-high 34 points, Jessica Shepard added 24 points and 14 rebounds, and defending national champion Notre Dame beat Texas A&M in the Sweet 16 for the second straight year, 87-80 on Saturday.
Ogunbowale scored 12 in the final 6:45 to help the top-seeded Fighting Irish (33-3) advance to the Elite Eight of the women’s NCAA Tournament for the eighth time in nine years. They will play No. 2 seed Stanford or 11th-seeded Missouri State in the Chicago Region final on Monday.
Ogunbowale, the Irish’s career scoring leader, surpassed her previous high of 32 points. Shepard dominated down low, and Notre Dame got a sweet repeat to go with its 12th straight win.
Chennedy Carter led Texas A&M (26-8) with a season-high 35 points in another impressive NCAA performance. The sophomore guard came in averaging just over 30 points in five career tournament games and came out connecting again, nailing 7 of 12 3-pointers.
Kayla Wells scored 18. But it was an all-too-familiar result against Notre Dame for the fourth-seeded Aggies.
The Fighting Irish beat Texas A&M by six points last year during a championship run that ended with a thrilling comeback against Mississippi State for their second title. And the rematch was tight until the end.
The game was tied at 69 with just under seven minutes remaining when Ogunbowale popped to the right wing for a 3-pointer and broke for a layup after picking off a pass by Carter, delighting the green-clad Irish fans. Jackie Young hit a turnaround shot in the paint to make it a seven-point game.
Carter drove for a layup. But Ogunbowale pulled up for a three-point play, hitting the free throw after getting knocked to the floor to make it 79-71. Her twisting fast-break layup made it 83-74 with 54 seconds remaining. But Ogunbowale got called for a technical, resulting in two free throws by Wells.
A layup by Ciera Johnson cut it to 83-78 with 43 seconds left. But Ogunbowale and Young each hit two free throws to get the lead back up to nine before Wells scored for Texas A&M with 8 seconds left.
Texas A&M: Carter dominated again and Wells had a solid game. But the Aggies couldn’t keep their season going.
Notre Dame: The Irish showed they can pull out the close ones, too, after winning the previous 11 games by at least 18.
Notre Dame awaits its opponent in Monday’s regional final.