Arike Ogunbowale wrote her name in the Notre Dame story with the shot that picked the Irish over rival UConn.
Ogunbowale's jumpers from the corner with a second left gave Notre Dame a 91-89 overtime victory on Friday night, handing the Huskies their second direct defeat and the sudden end of an unbeaten season in the national semi-final.
She finished 27 points and Jackie Young had a career-high 32 to return the Irish for the first time since 2015 to the championship game. 19659002] "I know, I had to shoot it at the last minute," said Ogunbowale. "I did not want to give them a chance to get the ball, I went into the Mamba mentality, Kobe is here, so I tried to channel."
It's the second year in a row that an undefeated UConn team has lost in the final four in a last-second shot in extra time. Last time it was Mississippi State and Morgan William who ended the 1
"There is nothing you can say to a college kid after having experienced these two years in a row, you know," said Geno Auriemma. "We had an incredible run for five months, it's just that, a weekend in March will decide your season."
The Irish will meet on Sunday night in Bulldogs on the Bulldogs the title game. Muffet McGraw's team will look for their second national championship, which they will win in 2001.
Ogunbowale had the chance to seal the game in the last minute of extra time, but missed two free throws. Crystal Dangerfield then hit a 3-pointer to tie him at 89 and create the fantastic finish. The Huskies threw the ball into the field after 3, but had no chance to tie it.
"We were a bit depressed at the end of regulation, but Arike, I think, was crazier than anyone else," said McGraw. "She wanted to have the ball in her hands and we put him there for the end of the match."
This was the latest chapter in the biggest current basketball rivalry for women. The sold-out crowd, seeing Lakers great Kobe Bryant sitting behind Huskies bench with his wife and daughters, was pretty much watching the show with epic comebacks from both teams. Bryant later tweeted in Ogunbowale: "Big Time shot Arike!"
Notre Dame has never beaten the huskies in the national championship game. They have now won four of the five encounters in the Final Four, including twice in overtime.
"It was the second or third time that we beat them in the semi-final, that was our lucky charm," McGraw said. "We can not beat them in the final, so to have a big lead, to waste it and come from behind, this one is very special, it has to be the best."
UConn was five under with One minute before Reghe left, before Napheesa Collier hit a 3-pointer and left for 15 seconds. Kia Nurse had a layup a few seconds later to tie her up. After Notre Dame turned it with 3.6 seconds in the regulation, Gabby Williams' runner was short and sent the game to overtime.
The teams traded shot by shot in overtime before the Irish left 86-84 with 2:37 left in the extra period. Young then made three free throws in the next two minutes to give the Irishman a five-point lead by 43 seconds.
Collier then scored a three-point game. Ogunbowale missed her two free throws a few seconds later. She soothed 37 seconds after a Notre Dame break with the shot that sparked a wild celebration of Irish believers making the trip.
"I practice that all the time," said Ogunbowale. "It's everyone's dream to get a game-winning recording, so you're doing it in the gym when you're alone, so I was prepared for that moment."
This might be one of McGraw's most unlikely NCAA runs, though it's a No. 1 seed. The Irish lost four players to ACL injuries during the season. With only seven healthy fellows left, the Irish recovered from the second-half deficits in the last three NCAA games.
Just like their regular season, Notre Dame started hot. The Huskies returned 24-11 late in the first quarter before Katie Lou Samuelson hit a 3-pointer just before the end of the period. In the next nine minutes, a 28-6 run ran to give the Huskies a 39-30 lead. Azura Stevens had 10 points during the race when UConn took over, much to the delight of the sold-out crowd of nearly 20,000 fans.
The Huskies (36-1) performed 41-34 in half before Notre Dame collected. The teams exchanged the lead in the third quarter before the Huskies 60-57 entered the fourth quarter.
Collier finished with 24 points for the sled dogs. Stevens added 19.