PHILADELPHIA (AP) Arike Ogunbowale and her Notre Dame teammates took a while to take control.
Ogunbowale scored 13 of her 20 points in the fourth quarter and the third-ranked Irish beat Penn 66-54 Saturday.
”I think we just were in attack mode,” the junior guard said. ”I think we were pretty chill in the first three quarters, but in the fourth quarter, we knew we had to pick it up. When we attacked, we got easy buckets.”
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The Quakers stayed within single digits for much of the first three periods. They trailed by seven at half, held Notre Dame to only nine points in the third quarter – but scored only eight themselves – and entered the fourth down 42-34.
Ogunbowale opened the final quarter with a personal 7-0 spurt and scored Notre Dame’s first nine points of the fourth as Notre Dame’s lead increased to 19.
Marina Mabrey added 15 points and eight rebounds for the Irish (9-1).
Notre Dame took the lead for good in the early minutes and dominated inside, outscoring Penn (2-4) in the paint 40-18.
Quakers senior forward Michelle Nwokedi, the defending Ivy League Player of the Year, was held to four points. She shot 2 for 14 and didn’t score in the second half. She had been averaging a team-high 13.6 points.
”They gave Michelle some space on the perimeter. She’s been struggling from shooting the ball outside 15-to-18 feet,” Penn head coach Mike McLaughlin said. ”She missed some real easy ones. … They played her really well. I think it snowballed on her.”
Irish forward Jessica Shepard was a presence inside. She finished with six blocks to go with eight rebounds and nine points.
”Defensively we did a really good job on Michelle. That was kind of the key to the game,” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. ”I thought we were physical with her.”
Lauren Whitlatch led Penn with 18 points, all on 3s.
”Every time we kind of thought we were in a deep hole, Lauren bailed us out,” McLaughlin said.
Notre Dame has now two straight after its first loss of the season, at UConn last Sunday. Notre Dame is 4-0 over the years against Penn.
Penn: Facing a highly ranked team is nothing new for Penn, which has now played five non-conference opponents ranked in the top 15 since 2011-12 (No. 3 Notre Dame in 2011-12, No. 5 Notre Dame in 2013-14, No. 4 Tennessee 2014-15 and No. 14 Duke in 2015-16).
Bot McGraw and freshman center Mikayla Vaughn are Philadelphia natives.
McGraw graduated from Saint Joseph’s in 1977 and was inducted into the Big 5 Hall of Fame in 1990. She was among those inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame this year and honored in a pregame ceremony.
”It was so gracious of them to do that for me,” she said. ”I did play here way back before the building was remodeled. … It was a friendly home environment to be in.”
Vaughn led Friends’ Central to consecutive titles as a sophomore and junior before transferring to Paul VI Catholic High in Fairfax, Virginia, for her senior year.
Notre Dame has a week off. The Irish host DePaul on Sunday, Dec. 17.
Penn has a day off. The Quakers face Big 5 rival St. Joe’s on Hawk Hill on Monday.