ESTERO, Fla. — Jackie Young and Notre Dame sent a clear message Sunday night. The Irish are a force yet again.
Arike Ogunbowale scored 23 points, Young added 22 on her way to tournament MVP honors and No. 6 Notre Dame beat No. 3 South Carolina 92-85 on Sunday night to take the Gulf Coast Showcase championship and snap the defending national champion Gamecocks’ 17-game winning streak.
Marina Mabrey scored 12 points and Jessica Shepard had 10 for the Irish (6-0), who went on a staggering 37-12 run in one stretch and then had just enough to hang on in the final moments.
“We’re a great team,” Young said. “We were just rattled in a little bit at the beginning. We just needed to get settled down, get some stops, get settled into our offense and that’s what we did.”
A’ja Wilson had 29 of her career-best 34 points in the second half for South Carolina (6-1), which hadn’t lost since Feb. 19. Alexis Jennings and Doniyah Cliney each scored 12 points for the Gamecocks, who had won each of their last 31 games in which they scored 85 or more.
“Foul trouble does that to us,” South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said. “We lose our point guard, and although we practice without her at times, when you’re playing that level of team you’ve got to have your full armor.”
When Tyasha Harris got her second foul early in the second quarter, the reigning national champions were up 30-18. Barely five minutes later, the lead was gone. And soon, it was gone for good.
Notre Dame made seven consecutive shots in the second quarter to get back into the game, then had another 7 for 7 stretch early in the fourth.
“I thought the best thing about the game was how we handled their first punch,” said Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw, whose team had a 58-42 edge in points in the paint. “They came out on fire. We were back on our heels. I really needed to get two posts in the game. I thought we played much better when we had two posts in.”
The first Irish lead came when Mabrey found Shepard for a layup and a 34-33 edge, and Notre Dame just kept attacking the rim the rest of the way.
Mabrey had back-to-back scores at the rim early in the third to give Notre Dame a 47-38 lead, and the Irish kept control from there. The only time the outcome looked in any doubt was late in the third, when South Carolina forced turnovers on two straight possessions, scored on both and got within 59-51.
Notre Dame called time and Mabrey drilled an open 3-pointer from the left corner on the ensuing possession, and the Irish took an 11-point lead into the fourth.
The lead was 80-61 when Young scored with 6:34 left. South Carolina had one last-gasp run, getting within nine on a layup by Wilson with 2:04 left and eventually within five in the final seconds, but the Gamecocks ran out of time.
“Our young team, this is great for them,” Staley said. “As much as you try to tell them there’s another level of competition out there, until they face it — in defeat — that’s when the learning takes place.”
Notre Dame: The Irish shot 67 percent in the second quarter and 69 percent in the fourth. … Notre Dame has now won 38 consecutive games played in November.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks started 9 for 14, then were just 6 for their next 26. After the hot start, they went more than 20 minutes before making two consecutive shots. … Staley remained on 399 career wins.
HOW THEY FINISHED
No. 17 South Florida beat St. John’s 68-59 for third place, Washington State topped Rutgers 63-60 for fifth place and Western Michigan defeated East Tennessee State 87-79 for seventh place.
Notre Dame: Visit No. 25 Michigan on Wednesday in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.
South Carolina: Host Western Carolina on Thursday to start a four-game homestand.