- Associated Press - Thursday, November 17, 2016

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) - Green Bay got physical with top-ranked Notre Dame and gave the Fighting Irish about all they could take.

The Phoenix (2-1) rallied from 17 points down midway through the third quarter and narrowed the lead to five points three times in the final 4 minutes before finally falling 71-67 in a Preseason WNIT semifinal Thursday night.

The Irish (3-0) shot just 33 percent in the second half and 36 percent for the game. Arike Ogunbowale led the Irish with 18 points but didn’t hit another basket after making a 15-foot jumper to extend Notre Dame’s lead to 17 points.

Jessica Lindstrom led the Phoenix with 20 points and 16 rebounds, hitting a 3-pointer to cut Notre Dame’s lead to 69-64 with 19 seconds left. But Marina Mabrey, who finished with 13 points, hit two free throws to give the Irish a seven-point lead with 16 seconds left.

Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw was disappointed with the Irish, saying they were “ragged” on offense and struggled defensively against Green Bay’s screens.

“They’re so experienced. They’re poised. They’re well coached. They’re disciplined. Offensively they were really hard to guard and defensively they made it really difficult to get the ball in the post,” she said.

The Irish, who normally dominate inside, had only a 28-24 advantage inside against the Phoenix and Green Bay’s reserves outscored Notre Dame’s bench 22-8.

The Phoenix shot 64 percent in the second half and 45 percent for the game.

“We changed a little bit of the schematic and tried to put it so we could drive it and spread them out a little more, which helped us,” Green Bay coach Kevin Borseth said. “But we hit some shots, some big shots.”

Players on both sides described the game as physical.

“But I feel like that’s just part of the game nowadays,” Lindstrom said.

McGraw believes having such a tough challenge will help the Irish.

“Hopefully we learned a lot from it. I thought we made some big plays in the end when we had to. But overall, just really disappointing,” she said. “We looked like the younger team on the floor, and I think we were. But I think we can play a lot smarter.”

BIG PICTURE

Green Bay: The Phoenix, the favorites to win the Horizon League, played their first game ever against a No. 1 ranked team and stayed within reach throughout the game as they gave the Irish all they could handle.

Notre Dame: The Irish struggled offensively early against the Phoenix, who ranked ninth nationally in scoring defense last season at 52.2 points a game, but managed to pull out the victory despite being held to 36 percent shooting.

POLL IMPLICATIONS:

Green Bay: The Phoenix were already receiving votes and likely could well move into the rankings with an impressive showing on the road.

Notre Dame: The Irish may be hard-pressed to keep the No. 1 ranking after struggling on its home court against an unranked opponent.

TIP-INS: The Irish were 0 of 5 from 3-point range in the second half after going 5 of 8 in the first half. … Green Bay was 6 of 9 from 3-point range in the third quarter. … The Irish have players from 10 states on their roster. Every player on Green Bay is from Wisconsin. … The Phoenix dropped to 1-2 all-time against the Irish, with the win coming in 1987.

UP NEXT

Green Bay: The Phoenix are knocked out of the Preseason WNIT. Green Bay plays road games against Belmont, Chattanooga and Bradley before returning home to face Drake on Dec. 3.

Notre Dame: The Irish will play No. 17 Washington in the Preseason WNIT final at South Bend on Sunday. The Irish then play at Louisiana-Lafayette on Tuesday.

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