Defending champion Notre Dame advances to Elite 8

Consider this a sweet repeat for Notre Dame.

Arike Ogunbowale scored a career-high 34 points, Jessica Shepard added 24 points and 14 rebounds, and the defending national champion Fighting Irish beat Texas A&M in the Sweet 16 for the second straight year, 87-80 in Chicago on Saturday.

Ogunbowale, last year’s Final Four hero, scored 24 in the second half. She had 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 — a 55-46 winner over 11th-seeded Missouri State — in the Chicago Region final Monday.

“The bigger the moment, the bigger she plays,” coach Muffet McGraw said of Ogunbowale. “She’s not afraid of a big moment by any means. There were a lot of times we were just running stuff for her, and we ran a lot of sets for her, and she responded incredibly well. She has just got that mentality of ‘I want the ball in a clutch situation,’ and she’s not afraid to miss.”

Ogunbowale, the Irish’s career scoring leader, surpassed her previous high of 32 points. Shepard dominated down low, and Notre Dame scored another tournament knockout over the Aggies with its 12th straight win.

Chennedy Carter led Texas A&M (26-8) with a season-high 35 points in another impressive NCAA performance, though she took 34 shots. The sophomore guard came in averaging just over 30 points in five career tournament games and had the touch from long range, nailing 7 of 12 3-point attempts.

Kayla Wells scored 18. But it was an all-too-familiar result against Notre Dame for the fourth-seeded Aggies.

“Notre Dame played damn good. We played almost damn good,” Texas A&M coach Gary Blair said.

Greensboro Region

Baylor 93, South Carolina 68: In a regional semifinal in Greensboro, N.C., the Bears reached the Elite Eight for the fifth time in six years with another dominant performance.

Didi Richards scored a career-high 25 points, and Lauren Cox added 17 points and 14 rebounds for the No. 1 overall seed.

Baylor shot 52 percent to win its 26th straight game and blow out the Gamecocks for the second time this season.

Kalani Brown had 18 points and 10 boards, and Juicy Landrum and Chloe Jackson each finished with 12 points for the Bears (34-1).

Baylor will play second-seeded Iowa on Monday night with the winner advancing to the Final Four.

Te’a Cooper scored 17 points and Mikiah Herbert Harrigan added 16 for fourth-seeded South Carolina (23-10).

Iowa 79, North Carolina State 61: In the region’s other semifinal, Megan Gustafson had 27 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Hawkeyes. Hannah Stewart added 16 points and 10 rebounds.

Gustafson, who averages a Division I-best 28 points while also ranking second in rebounding, finished with her 33rd double-double to match the NCAA’s single-season record. She made 10 of her 13 shots.

They helped second-seeded Iowa (29-6) earn its first Elite Eight appearance since 1993.

Freshman Elissa Cunane had 14 points and 11 rebounds, Kiara Leslie had 16 points and DD Rogers added 12 points for the third-seeded Wolfpack (28-6), who shot just 35 percent.

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