CHICAGO – 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 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.
"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 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, though she took 34 shots.
Stanford 55, Missouri State 46: Alanna Smith and Stanford outlasted Missouri State, sending the Cardinal back to the Elite Eight for the third time in four years.
Stanford shot a season-low 25 percent (17-for-68) in one of its worst offensive performances of the season. But Smith (13 points) and Anna Wilson (11) supplied just enough scoring, and the Cardinal (31-4) used its superior length to hold the 11th-seeded Lady Bears to 25.4 percent shooting (16-for-63).
Senior Danielle Gitzen (Chanhassen High School) had 14 points and eight rebounds for Missouri State (25-10), the last double-digit seed in the tournament.
It was Missouri State's first appearance in the Sweet 16 since a Final Four run in 2001.
The Lady Bears closed to 38-35 on Gitzen's jumper with 1:04 left in the third quarter. But the Cardinal responded with an 11-1 run.
Alexa Willard, who averaged 18.5 points in Missouri State's first two wins in the tournament, finished with two points on 1-for-11 shooting.
"Stanford is a great team, and they're very long, and I think that it definitely was disruptive having their long arms and getting into passes," Gitzen said, "but I think also we got good looks. We just couldn't hit them at the end of the day."