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For Notre Dame, Dreams Do Come True...Twice

Talk about your recurring dream. This past weekend, Arike Ogunbowale had a doozy.

Just 48 hours after nailing a killer overtime shot to end University of Connecticut’s undefeated season in the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship semi-finals, the 5-8 junior did it again, this time, a three-pointer with .1 seconds left in regulation to seal the National Championship over Mississippi State, 61-58, at the Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio.

Ogunbowale’s shot is what every basketball player dreams about: hitting a dagger with little or no time left to lift the team to an exciting tournament victory. For most, this is a once-in-life-in-time experience, but to do it twice in such a short time span in high-stress games, including one for a national title, well, dream on.

“It just felt right,” said Ogunbowale about the bucket that sent Mississippi State home for the second straight year in the National Championship game. In 2017, South Carolina defeated Mississippi State, 67-55. “I practice late-game all the time. I just ran to Jackie and said, 'Throw it to me, throw it to me.'”

Ogunbowale was talking about the inbound pass she received from Jackie Young with the score tied at 58 and three seconds on the clock. After receiving the pass, Ogunbowale, darted to her right toward the baseline and hoisted an off-balance shot just beyond the three-point line into the net for a 61-58 win. Dream sequence complete, the Fighting Irish National Champions, Ogunbowale the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.

The NCAA Championship was the second in the team’s history, 17 years after capturing its first title in 2001, when the Irish defeated Purdue, 68-61. Current coach Muffet McGraw was the head coach in 2001, after having taken the reins in 1987.

With four players out with torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries and only seven healthy scholarship players available, the championship victory was more rewarding. “We just constantly focus on what we have, what we can do, who’s going to step up?” said McGraw heading into the game.

On top of that, the Irish were down by 15 points in the third quarter, but the team lived up to its name and fought its way back with a 16-1 run to tie the score at 41 to start the fourth quarter. The comeback was the biggest in national title game history.

With a 1:58 left in the game, Notre Dame found itself down again, this time by five, but Marina Mabrey nailed a three and Young tied from inside. Mississippi State’s star player, Teaira McCowan, missed a layup with 28.7 left and then fouled out to set up Ogunbowale’s historic toss.

In the semi-final game versus UConn, the Irish had to stress out a near collapse after coughing up a five-point lead with 21.3 seconds in regulation, the score tied at 79. In overtime, Notre Dame went ahead by three but Crystal Dangerfield netted a three-pointer for the Lady Huskies to knot the score, 89-89, with 27 ticks on the clock.

With 13 seconds left in overtime, the Irish set up a play for Ogunbowale. She received the ball with intentions to drive in for an inside two but ran into trouble due to a stubborn UConn defense. Forced to stay in the perimeter, Ogunbowale fired off a looping jumper just inside the three-point line from the right side that hit nothing but net.

The killer shot also killed the Lady Huskies win season win streak at 36, and Ogunbowale, only a junior, is set up for her recurring dream to continue in 2019.

Final Four Numbers:

  • Each semi-final game went to overtime, ND defeating UConn, 91-89 and Mississippi State downing Louisville, 73-63
  • University of Connecticut finished 36-1, Mississippi State ended up at 37-2, Louisville bowed out at 36-3, and Notre Dame closed out at 35-3
  • Mississippi State closed out the regular season at 30-0. It’s first loss of the season was at the hands of South Carolina in the SEC tournament final.
  • UConn also closed out the regular season undefeated and won the AAC tournament.
  • Notre Dame lost to Louisville in the ACC Championship game.