Arike Ogunbowale scored 27 points and hit a go-ahead jumper with one second left in overtime, sending Notre Dame to the championship game and ending UConn’s bid at an undefeated season with a thrilling 91-89 win Friday in the Final Four of the women’s NCAA Tournament at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio.
Jackie Young had a career-high 32 points for the Fighting Irish, who will face Mississippi State on Sunday in the championship game.
It’s Notre Dame’s first trip to the title game since 2015. The Irish will be looking for the program’s first national championship since 2001.
UConn erased a five-point deficit in the final 20 seconds of the fourth quarter. Napheesa Collier hit a 3-pointer, and Kia Nurse stole an inbounds pass and made a layup to tie the score with 10 seconds left in regulation.
The Huskies made a late rally in overtime, too, tying the score on a Crystal Dangerfield 3-pointer with 29 seconds left.
After a Notre Dame timeout, the Irish got the ball to Ogunbowale, who created her own shot on the right wing and buried the game-winner.
“I knew I had to shoot it at the last minute,” she told ESPN on the court after the game. “I didn’t want to give them a chance to get the ball. I went into “mamba” mentality, Kobe [Bryant] is here so that is what I tried to channel. I practice this all the time. It’s everybody’s dream to get a game-winning shot, so you practice this in the gym when you’re by yourself, so I was prepared for this shot.”
UConn had its 36-game winning streak snapped, ending its bid for a 12th national championship under coach Geno Auriemma.
“We treat it like any other game,” Ogunbowale said of facing the team that has dominated women’s college basketball for the better part of two decades. “They’re a great team, we’re a great team, and there’s no reason for us to be scared of anybody.”
Collier led UConn with 24 points, and Azura Stevens added 19 points off the bench.
The Huskies led 67-59 after Dangerfield knocked down a 3-pointer with seven minutes left in the fourth quarter. Young fueled a Notre Dame comeback, converting a three-point play that trimmed the UConn lead to two.
The Huskies didn’t trail in their first four games of the NCAA Tournament, but found themselves down 24-14 at the end of the first quarter. It was only the second time all season that the Huskies had trailed by double digits.
UConn opened the second quarter with a 10-0 run to tie the score. Stevens had five quick points, and Katie Lou Samuelson hit a 3-pointer during the Huskies’ run.
Notre Dame went cold, failing to score during a five-minute drought that saw UConn go up by 11 in the second quarter. The Irish got baskets from Kathryn Westbeld and Ogunbowale in the final minute but went into halftime down 41-34.
–Field Level Media