SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Arike Ogunbowale and Marina Mabrey will always have Columbus, Ohio. The senior guards and off-campus roommates for No. 1 Notre Dame will always have Brooklyn, too.
The friendship between Ogunbowale, the Milwaukee scoring machine, and Mabrey, the street-wise Jersey shore kid, was cemented at the Barclays Center on April 17, 2015 in the Jordan Brand Classic
"We were guarding each other," recalled Mabrey, a prep All-American from Manasquan (N.J.) High School. "And we actually were laughing at each other because we were playing so horribly."
Mabrey, who had averaged 22.1 points, 6.8 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 3.0 steals in high school, had drawn the defensive assignment on Ogunbowale, a prep All-American who averaged 22.2 points, 9.6 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.2 steals per game at Divine Savior Holy Angels.
Their stat lines were not pretty in the game won by Mabrey's East squad, 76-75. In 20 minutes, Ogunbowale scored three points, hitting just one of eight field-goal shots. Mabrey went 0 for 8 and finished with 1 point.
"We WERE bad," laughed Ogunbowale, who also was Mabrey's teammate 16 days earlier in the McDonald's All-American Classic in Chicago. Mabrey scored 12 points with six rebounds and five steals that day in winning co-most valuable player honors and Ogunbowale added nine points as their East team beat the West, 89-87.
It was the start of a beautiful relationship that only got stronger last April in Columbus in the championship game. Ogunbowale hit a 3-pointer with 0.1 seconds remaining to lift Notre Dame to a 61-58 comeback victory over Mississippi State. It came two days after Ogunbowale nailed a long jumper with a second left in overtime to knock off top-ranked Connecticut, 91-89.
"Ice Twice" they call Ogunbowale, whose two buzzer-beaters earned her the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four and whose infectious smile earned her a spot on "Dancing With The Stars" after she concluded a remarkable junior year during which she averaged 20.8 points and earned All-America honors.
Mabrey earned all-Atlantic Coast Conference honors after a regular season in which she averaged 14.4 points a game after coach Muffet McGraw moved her to point guard when Mychal Johnson and Lili Thompson suffered season-ending ACL injuries. Mabrey, whose sister Michaela preceded her at Notre Dame by three seasons, was even better in the NCAA Tournament, averaging 15.8 points and 5.2 assists per game while shooting 50 percent (19 of 38) from beyond the 3-point line.
This talented backcourt is a major reason the Irish are the preseason No. 1 heading into Friday's season opener against Harvard.
"From where they started to where they are now, I've seen great progression," McGraw said. "Coming off all her accomplishments last season, the biggest thing I've seen from Arike is the leadership role she has taken. She is more vocal, especially with our freshmen. She's always encouraging them, instructing them — they are eager to listen to her."
Mabrey said her roommate lets her know about those famous buzzer-beaters all the time.
"I call her Our Lady of Arike," Mabrey quipped.
But she is grateful for Ogunbowale and how she helped bring Notre Dame its second NCAA title in McGraw's 31-year tenure in South Bend.
"I remember all the time we spent in the gym, her working on her shot," Mabrey said. "She had the opportunity to show how hard she worked, how much time she put in to live that moment. I was just so happy she got the opportunity to do that."
Ogunbowale, of course, knows there's no title if not for the sacrifice Mabrey made from moving from off guard to the point.
"It told me that Marina was a team player," Ogunbowale said. "The point guard is the most important player on the floor. For Marina to give up the ball, to run plays, to learn where everyone needs to be, that was super big. She took on that role with ease."
Their personalities have rubbed off on each other.
"I think I've become more chilled hanging around her all the time," Mabrey admitted. "Arike has become more vocal, more aggressive. She has more of a sense of urgency now — I love it."
Ogunbowale and Mabrey share the same business major at Notre Dame — management consulting — and they share the housework when they are not watching television, playing cards and just relaxing. Basketball is rarely spoken or seen, though the pair did watch the Michigan State-Kansas and Kentucky-Duke men's doubleheader earlier this week with friends.
"We made some buffalo dip," said Ogunbowale, who leaves the cooking to Mabrey.
"I usually do the cooking — she likes apple chicken sausage," Mabrey said. "Arike does make breakfast, and she does the dishes more than I do because the dishes are disgusting to me."
Both, of course, don't mind doing the dirty work on the basketball floor if it leads one last time to the Final Four in Tampa next April.
"Knowing how hard we've worked these last three years, I'm looking forward to putting it out there one more time," Mabrey said.
At least she won't have to guard her roommate.