On Friday, the huskies seemed to finish at the end of the regulation, followed by 79-74 with 21.3 seconds before Napheesa Collier (24 points) hit a 3-pointer and Kia Nurse stole the inbounds pass to one Layup Retrieve Tie the score, forcing an additional five minutes. In extra time, Notre Dame (34-3) drew ahead, but UConn responded. A 3-pointer from Crystal Dangerfield tied the score at 89-89 with 27 seconds left. Notre Dame called the time-out 13 seconds before the end and planned to isolate Ogunbowale (27 points) on the right wing and put her in the basket with about five seconds, assuming that UConn would not try to foul.
But UConn's defense made it difficult for Ogunbowale to get the ball as planned. Eventually, with overtime running short, she shot from within the 3-point arc and struck nothing but the net, giving Notre Dame his touching victory. Jackie Young topped the Irish with her career high of 32 points
"I did not know it went in, but it felt good," said Ogunbowale.
Muffet McGraw, the coach of Notre Dame, admitted that the game and ultimately the victory were the result of improvisation rather than design.
"I should probably thank every Catholic from coast to coast for all prayers on Good Friday," she said.
Important for the Irish, a deep familiarity with UConn had evolved over the years, self-esteem and stonewashing any nervousness from their annual matchup in the regular season and with consistency, another meeting in the tournament.
They are just another team, "said Marina Mabrey.
As part of the old Big East Conference, the teams once played four times each season, with their coaches – Notre Dames McGraw and UConn's Geno Auriemma – compulsively following The rivalry became the most exciting in women's college basketball, it was heated, sometimes to the point of bitterness.
Now they are in various leagues – the Irish play in the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Huskies in the American Athletic Conference – And the rivalry is less intense, but no less predictable deep runs in the NCAA tournament, Notre Dame defeated UConn in the semi-finals in 2001 when the Irish won their only national title and scored again in 2011 and 2012 and Friday  For the second consecutive year, UConn failed to reach the championship game. Last year, they lost to Mississippi State, who lost the Huskies in 111 games passed. On Friday, the huskies had to go home empty-handed – despite having won 147 of their last 149 games.
"When you do something and it looks so effortless, you become numb and forget that it's difficult," Auriemma said of UConn's raft national title. "It's very difficult. There are no bad teams. There are no bad players. You can not be lucky in a national championship. You have to play great.
In these types of games, he continued, there is often a necessary selfishness. A team often does not strike together, he said. Instead, "there are one or two players who just make incredible games and dominate the game."
Women's college basketball is now asking if UConn's stumbling is an anomaly or an inkling of something greater – the beginning of a shift to greater parity in the women's game that has developed parallel to the man's game.
The men's NCAA tournament began in 1939, the women in 1982. In the first 37 years of the men's tournament coach John Wooden and U.C.L.A. won 10 titles. Auriemma and UConn have won 11 titles in the first 37 years of the women's tournament.
The dominance of Will UConn begins to fade, as described by U.C.L.A. It's too early to say, said coach Joanne P. McCallie of Duke, who lost to UConn in the semi-final of the Albany region. UConn has signed the Nation's Best Recruit for next season, Christyn Williams, a 5-foot-11 Guard from Arkansas. And Auriemma, who has just turned 64, has indicated that he could become a coach until he turns 70.
UConn is still the "king and queen and leader of the pack," McCallie said. "Let's look at the next four years, which will be the pattern to evaluate."
Yet there is an undeniable balance in women's college basketball.
Tennessee, an eight-time national champion, has not reached the final four since Coach Pat Summitt's early-onset Alzheimer's disease. This season, Tennessee lost for the first time in the N.C.A.A. Competition. South Carolina, the 2017 champion, and Mississippi State, in the Final Four for a second season in a row, have supplanted Tennessee as forces in the Southeastern Conference.
"Every time you show some parity in our game, it's always good," said Dawn Staley, the South Carolina coach who won the title last year. A leveling of the pitch "gives other coaches the hope to continue training."
Oregon, U.C.L.A. and Oregon State have eased the stranglehold Stanford, a two-time champion and a Final Four regular, once had at the Pac-12 conference. And two eleventh seeds – Buffalo and Central Michigan – reached the round of 16 in the 2018 tournament.
Buffalo provided a sharp example of the recruitment that mid-majors have made to compete with opponents in the so-called Power-5 Conferences. Of Buffalo's 14 players this season, seven were international – four from Australia, two from Canada and one from Nigeria.
"Women are not just saying," I'm going to Connecticut ", they're going everywhere now," Buffalo coach Felisha Legette-Jack said. "My colleagues do not say," Come on, play for me because I'm in this school. "They say," Come on, play with me because of the relationship I'm building with you. "We do not look at buildings anymore; we look at people."
True parity in women's college basketball can not arrive, McCallie said, until attendance in the early rounds of N.C.A.A is reliable enough. Tournament for all teams to play in neutral places. At the moment, the best four grid positions in each region are eligible to play the first and second round on their home courses.
"I think the only thing we have problems with is where we play the neutral court against the house court because we have to draw fans," McCallie said. "I think that would be the next step."
Before the tournament began, Auriemma urged a group of UConn fans to enjoy what the huskies achieved, because "it will not take forever."
The game on Friday, he said with gallows humor, is a "great learning tool".
"But I'm a pretty smart guy," he added. "I do not have to learn this two years in a row."
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