01 April, 2018
Arike Ogunbowale #24 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish attempts a shot defended by Napheesa Collier #24 of the Connecticut Huskies during the first half in the semifinals of the 2018 NCAA Women's Final Four at Nationwide Arena on March 30, 2018 in Columbus, Ohio.
A year ago, the University of CT women's basketball team lost a heartbreaker at the buzzer in overtime to Mississippi State in the semifinals of the NCAA tournament and UConn coach Geno Auriemma smiled. Ogunbowale's shot capped a 27-point night, and Jackie Young led the way for the winners with 32 points.
The Fighting Irish (34-3) advanced to the title game against fellow No. 1 seed Mississippi State, whose game provided the first thriller of the evening when the Bulldogs beat No. 1 seed Louisville, 73-63.
The underlying theme all season was redemption and they fell short. There are no bad teams, no bad players.
UConn's undefeated women's basketball team is no longer undefeated.
There's just a team that came from nothing and climbed to the top showing others that they can do the same as well.
"They made one more big play tonight than we did", Auriemma said. Notre Dame won 91-89. Young fueled a Notre Dame comeback, converting a three-point play that trimmed the UConn lead to two.
"I tried to get a good shot", she said.
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It's Notre Dame's first trip to the title game since 2015.
"Big shot by Arike, unbelievable", McGraw said.
"We've been very fortunate for the most part to get those kids that come out of high school, and they want to be coached the way I coach, and they're not afraid to walk into our building and look up at the walls see those names and see those banners, and go, 'I got this, '" Auriemma said. But they kept clawing back - and throughout the game, it seemed like they were only one basket from pulling away until Notre Dame went up by five with less than a minute remaining in overtime and they ran out of miracle shots.
Neither Mississippi State nor Louisville (36-2) have also never won a national title.
McCowan broke the rebounding mark set by Charlotte Smith of North Carolina in 1994 when Mississippi State's 6-foot-7 center grabbed her 24th board. As a team, UConn led the nation in offensive and defensive efficiency. Let's start by going to the final 20 seconds of the fourth quarter, in which the Fighting Irish had a five-point lead.
UConn lost in the Final Four to Notre Dame on Friday night, in an instant classic that featured more lead changes, impossible shots, and sudden twists than any normal fan should be able to handle.
"The neat thing about it is after every game in December, now I will say to her all the time, 'I'll see you in March.' If I see you in March, it will be in the Final Four, so that's cool", Auriemma said.
The Huskies feature two players, Gabby Williams and Katie Lou Samuelson, who were named finalists for the Naismith Award, which is awarded to the sport's best player. Muffet McGraw always has her team ready and they aren't scared of the UConn mystique.