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The Battalion

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The Battalion

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Texas A&M women’s basketball to face No. 1 seed Notre Dame in Sweet 16 on Saturday

Freshman+Chennedy+Carter%26%23160%3Blooks+to+lead+the+Aggies+past+University+of+Notre+Dame+in+the+third+round+of+the+NCAA+tournament.
Photo by Photo by Jesse Everett

Freshman Chennedy Carter looks to lead the Aggies past University of Notre Dame in the third round of the NCAA tournament.

SPOKANE, Washington — Four-seed Texas A&M women’s basketball team will take on one-seed Notre Dame on Saturday at Spokane Arena with an Elite Eight berth on the line.
The Aggies (26-9) enter the game with some momentum after a 52-point second half in their second round matchup against DePaul on Sunday. However, the Aggies needed every one of the points to get out of a 15-point halftime deficit and a 17-point deficit in the second half to complete the fourth-largest comeback in NCAA women’s basketball history.
“We feel confident coming in. We know we can’t get down 15 points to a team like Notre Dame and have that comeback. We have to be ready to go from the start, ready to go,” junior A&M guard Danni Williams said.
Conversely, Notre Dame (31-3) comes into the game after winning 16 of their last 17 games, including Sunday’s second round rout of Villanova. Notre Dame let Villanova hang around in the first half, however, used suffocating defense in the second half to knock Villanova out, 98-72. The Irish have found success this season despite having just seven healthy scholarship players available since Dec. 31. Four Notre Dame players have suffered season-ending injuries due to torn ACLs. 
Also working against Notre Dame this season has been their rigorous schedule. The Fighting Irish had the toughest schedule in the country and have the second-highest RPI behind only UConn. The schedule has given the Irish several tests throughout the season, which Notre Dame junior forward Jessica Shepard says has prepared her team, but once you get into March, all bets are off.
“It’s prepared us definitely. But I think going into every game now you know you’re going to get every team’s best shot. If you lose, you’re out,” Shepard said.
In Friday’s press conference, Blair said that the game will likely be decided in the post play battle between A&M senior center Khaalia Hillsman and Shepard. Specifically, Blair thinks it will come down to which of the two can stay out of foul trouble and a big part of that is the sensitivity of the referees.
“Shepard and Hillsman, both of them need to stay out of foul trouble. How is the game going to be called?,” Blair said. “I think once you get to the NCAA Tournament you got to let the bigs play a little. I think that’s going to be important.”
Another key matchup in the game will be A&M freshman point guard Chennedy Carter versus Notre Dame junior guard Arike Ogunbowale, both of which pace their respective teams in points per game, Carter with 22.4 and Ogunbowale with 20.6 points per game.
Carter has momentum after her 37-point performance against DePaul, 32 of which came in the second half, showing that she can take over a game. Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw said Carter’s performance shows that she has the ability to take over a game.
“She single-handedly won the DePaul game, great play at the end of the game,” McGraw said. “She’s really hard to guard because she can put it on the floor, get it to the rim, pass, she can score from just about anywhere on the floor. She’s really, really dangerous. I think she’s going to be a huge challenge for us.”
Both teams are very familiar with each other as Texas A&M defeated Notre Dame to win the 2011 National Championship. Blair says that though he reminisces on the victory, he is careful that it doesn’t prevent him from focusing on the task at hand.
“I think about it every day that I look at my right hand,” Blair said, referring to his national championship ring. “Yes, I think about it every day but I don’t think about the game itself. To be honest, I’ve never seen the complete game after the fact. I’ve only seen the highlights. It was time to turn the page and start thinking about the next year’s team.”
Blair is no stranger to the Sweet 16, however his team is. Blair is making his 13th Sweet 16 appearance this weekend in Spokane, while none of his girls have ever made it to a Sweet 16. Conversely, Notre Dame is making their ninth straight Sweet 16 appearance.
The A&M-Notre Dame matchup will tip off at 3:00 p.m. CT and will be televised on ESPN. The winner of the matchup will play the winner of two-seed Oregon and eleven-seed Central Michigan at 8 p.m. CT on Monday night.

 
 

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    Photo by Photo by Jesse Everett

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