Sweet Celebration! Irish headed to Sweet 16 after OT win

The halls of Mackey Arena were rocking late Tuesday night.

That's because the Notre Dame women's basketball had a huge celebration as they came off the court after defeating Oklahoma in overtime to advance to the NCAA Sweet 16.

Irish hugged, high-fived, and sprinted towards the locker room together where the celebration continued.

"It means everything," says senior Charel Allen, who scored a career-high 35 points in the win.

"We set long-term goals at the beginning of the season and this was one of them. This senior class has never been to a Sweet 16 and that's what we wanted to do and that's what we did."

As players were interviewed in the locker room, other teammates continued to celebrate behind them.

"Heck yeah it was the best game," junior Lindsay Schrader screamed so all her teammates could here. "It was a total team effort."

The game was wild with the lead see-sawing back and forth in the 2nd half and into overtime.

"I don't know if its going to completely sink in until I maybe go back and practice now," senior Tulyah Gaines said with a huge smile.

"I'm not going home crying so it feels great."

Gaines and Allen were absolutely huge for the Irish down the stretch. After ND blew a 9-point lead to trail by 7 in the 2nd half, the senior duo sparked an 8-0 Irish run to regain the lead.

Muffet's Squad pushed the lead to 65-60 with 1:30 left, but Oklahoma battled back to tie it up and force overtime.

In OT, Oklahoma scored the first five points to take a 70-65 lead.

But there was Allen, dropping a huge three to pull the Irish within two. She and Gaines then forced a turnover and Ashley Barlow tied the game at 70 with a layup.

"They were relentless," Muffet McGraw said about her two senior starters. "They just refused to lose."

"I think that's Tulyah's energy all year long. She's the heart and soul of our team and she's the one getting the ball to Charel."

Once again, the seniors showed that never say die attitude.

"We knew it was going to be a fight and a battle," Gaines explained. "There was no way I was going to give up and I knew my team wasn't either."

"I didn't want my season to end," Allen said. "I want to still put on the Notre Dame jersey, continue to play, play as hard as I can."

McGraw called the win one of the top three in her 21 seasons as the Irish head coach.

The Irish will next face top-seeded Tennessee Sunday night at approximately 9:30 EST in Oklahoma City.

The Lady Vols beat the Irish by 24 points at the Joyce Center earlier this season.

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