Notre Dame’s Jackie Young led all scorers in Friday night’s Final Four matchup against the 36-0 UConn Huskies with 32 points, but Arike Ogunbowale’s game winner is what will go down in Irish lore after their dramatic 91-89 overtime win.
UConn had already survived a frightful scare from the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at the end of regulation. After a 6-0 run put the Fighting Irish ahead by five with 21.6 seconds remaining, the cards were stacked against UConn. Then, Kia Nurse happened.
Following a timeout by Geno Auriemma, Napheesa Collier buried a 3-pointer from the right short corner off of a kick-out from Crystal Dangerfield. However, on the ensuing inbounds, Nurse plucked the sideline inbounds pass and coasted in for the breakaway game-tying lay-up.
In overtime, the Huskies had one more comeback wild card left up their sleeves.
Following an intentional foul on Young, who gathered Jessica Shepard’s deflected shot under the basket and watched it rim out, Notre Dame was in position to to push their lead out of reach. Instead, Young missed the first freebie before making the second to give Notre Dame a familiar five-point cushion with 44 seconds remaining.
However, in a near-repeat of the end of regulation, UConn fought back with a quick score from Collier. After Ogunbowale missed both of her free throws, Dangerfield sank a deep triple to knot it up at 89. Unfortunately, they left too much time for Ogunbowale, who drove into the corner, laced a crossover and drained the dagger with one second remaining on the clock.
UConn’s desperate full-court pass bounced into Katie Lou Samuelson’s hands near the free-throw line extended, but the All-American couldn’t make the bank-in, ending the highest-scoring game in the history of the women’s Final Four.
The result delays the Huskies’ pursuit of a record 12th college basketball national championship. UConn remains tied with UCLA men’s basketball with 11 titles after falling in its Final Four matchup in heartbreaking fashion for the second straight year.
After multiple comeback bids from the Huskies on Friday, Ogunbowale’s cool stroke sent the Huskies home and the Irish onward to the national championship. She said after the game that she drew inspiration from one fan in particular for her game-winning shot.
Arike Ogunbowale channeled her Mamba mentality with Kobe in the building. pic.twitter.com/0b9hiKhgqw
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) March 31, 2018
“I knew I just had to shoot it at the last minute. I mean, I didn’t want to give them a chance to get the ball,” Ogunbowale said. “I went into Mamba mentality. Kobe’s here, so that’s what I had to channel.”
Kobe couldn’t help but respond in kind after Ogunbowale’s dramatic winner, albeit while noting he’s a UConn women’s basketball fan at heart. Game still recognizes game though.
Big time shot Arike! We are a @UConnWBB family but we love seeing great players making great plays. I know my lil sis @jewellloyd is happy Well done @ndwbb good luck on Sunday #mambamentality https://t.co/8DxHkNURN7
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