The combination of a hot Purdue team and a Notre Dame squad that lost its leading scorer/rebounder almost resulted in a huge upset in the women's NCAA tournament. (Almost being the key word in this tourney so far.)
The top-seeded Irish held off the No. 9 seed Boilermakers 88-82 in overtime on the Fighting Irish's home court, sending Notre Dame to the Sweet 16 for the eighth year in a row.
But it was nerve-wracking for Notre Dame, which did not have junior post player Brianna Turner for the second half. Her knee appeared to buckle under the basket late in the second quarter. She left the court and did not return to the game in the second half, watching from the bench.
The Irish led by as much as 16 points, but the Boilermakers kept chipping away. They cut the score to 74-72 in the final minute. Arike Ogunbowale missed a shot for Notre Dame, and teammate Kathryn Westbeld fouled out, sending Bridget Perry to the free throw line for Purdue. She made both to tie the score 74-74, and Notre Dame had the ball with 25.6 seconds left.
The Irish ran down the clock with the ball in point guard Lindsay Allen's hands. She put up a floater that didn't touch the rim, and Purdue was able to call a timeout and advance the ball to half court. But the Boilermakers weren't able to get off a shot, and the game went to overtime.
Without post players Turner and Westbeld, the Irish had to rely on their guards in the extra period. And they took control of the game. Marina Mabrey had six points, Ogunbowale four, and Allen and Jackie Young each scored two for Notre Dame in overtime.
Purdue seniors Ashley Morrisette (23 points, 9 assists) and Perry (22 points, 9 rebounds) played brilliantly in their final college game.
Player of the game: The senior Allen has been the rock running the point for a long time for the Fighting Irish, and she refused to lose her final game at home in Purcell Pavilion. She finished with 12 points, 8 assists and no turnovers.
Turning point: Turner's injury changed not just the on-court dynamics, but the vibe in the arena. Notre Dame led 45-33 at halftime after outscoring Purdue 32-16 in the second quarter. But it was a different game in the second half.
How it was won: Notre Dame over the past several years has become "Guard U" with so many standouts on the perimeter, and those are the players who pulled it out of the fire for the Irish on Sunday. Mabrey had a team-high 21 points and Ogunbowale 18 for Notre Dame.
X factor: Ogunbowale's work on the boards, with nine rebounds, was critical in a game in which they didn't have Turner after halftime. Both teams finished with 40 rebounds.
Stat of the game: Both teams had just 11 turnovers, showing how well both kept their composure for such a high-stakes, intense game.
What's next: Notre Dame moves on to face No. 5 seed Ohio State in the Lexington Regional semifinals, and both teams have question marks in the post with Turner and Ohio State's Stephanie Mavunga. Purdue finishes its season at 23-13.