COLUMBUS, Ohio — When Johnnie Harris looks at the Notre Dame women’s basketball team, she sees parts of LSU — only bigger.
The Mississippi State associate head coach is part of an all-hands-on-deck approach to a scouting report led by assistant coach Dionnah Jackson-Durrett, who is responsible for preparing MSU’s game plan for its matchup against Notre Dame at 5 p.m. today (ESPN) in the national championship game at Nationwide Arena.
The similarities between LSU and Notre Dame exist between the Tigers’ Ragyne Louis and Chloe Jackson and the Fighting Irish’ Arike Ogunbowale and Jackie Young. Harris came away impressed Friday night after watching Young score a career-high 32 points and Ogunbowale add 27 in a 91-89 overtime victory against Connecticut. Ogunbowale’s buzzer-beater helped the Fighting Irish secure a date for the program’s sixth appearance in the national title game.
“I thought they were big, strong, physical, very explosive guards,” Harris said. “Ogunbowale can get her shot and get her shot off really quick, and Young gets to the basket and is really explosive.”
Jackson had 25 points and Louis had 20 in MSU’s 83-70 victory against LSU on Jan. 7 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. MSU has had issues at time this season against guards with size or quickness. Oklahoma State’s Loryn Goodwin had 35 points against MSU on Dec. 3, 2017, in Starkville. Texas A&M’s Chennedy Carter had 31 and 27 points against MSU.
MSU won all of those games, though, as well as the rematch against OSU in the second round of the NCAA tournament. The Bulldogs limited Goodwin to 14 points in the second meeting.
Harris said Ogunbowale, a 5-foot-8 junior, and Young, a 6-foot sophomore, have the same explosiveness as Louis and Jackson but they are bigger and stronger, which makes preparing a game plan to slow them down even more difficult.
“We’re going to have to make them uncomfortable,” Harris said. “They’re going to get shots, but we’re going to have to try to make them take shots they don’t normally get or try to take them out of their comfort level.
“We’re going to have to have really good help-side defense. We’re going to have to have pressure because we can’t let them stand out there and run their plays and be able to get the plays they want to get.”
MSU followed that strategy extremely well in its 89-73 victory against UCLA in the Elite Eight. The Bulldogs outscored the Bruins 19-9 in the second quarter to build a 16-point halftime lead. MSU limited UCLA to 2-for-12 shooting (16.7 percent) in that quarter and pushed the Bruins a step or two outside of their comfort zone.
MSU coach Vic Schaefer knows stopping one play won’t be enough against Notre Dame, which has four players averaging double figures.
“They’ve got so many weapons,” Schaefer said. “All those kids can really score.”
Schaefer praised Young for her explosiveness. He said all of the Fighting Irish are playing with a lot of confidence, especially coming off a back-and-forth game against UConn.
“We know we’re going against a tremendous Notre Dame team,” Schaefer said. “Muffet is a tremendous coach. She and her staff do a tremendous job. People say, ‘Well, you thought you might — they might have thought, we might have thought we’d play Connecticut. The only thing worse than playing Connecticut is playing the team that beat them. They’re really good. Notre Dame is a heck of a team.”
n Watch Party set for today: Coming off a thrilling second-straight national semifinal victory, Mississippi State fans are invited to attend a national championship game watch party in Humphrey Coliseum when the Bulldog women’s basketball team takes on Notre Dame at 5 p.m. today on ESPN.
Doors to Humphrey Coliseum open at 4 p.m. Admission is free. MSU’s clear bag policy and standard security screening procedures will be in effect. Cowbells will be permitted. Concessions will not be available.
MSU is seeking the first national title in program history. SEC Network and ESPN will broadcast live from Humphrey Coliseum throughout the afternoon and during the game.
Host Peter Burns will anchor a special edition of “SEC Now” on SEC Network/SEC Network+ from Humphrey Coliseum beginning at 4 p.m. Another edition of “SEC Now” will follow immediately after the game.
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
You can help your community
Quality, in-depth journalism is essential to a healthy community. The Dispatch brings you the most complete reporting and insightful commentary in the Golden Triangle, but we need your help to continue our efforts. Please consider subscribing to our website for only $2.30 per week to help support local journalism and our community.