COLUMBUS, Ohio — Arike Ogunbowale etched her name in Notre Dame lore with the shot that lifted the Irish over rival UConn.
Ogunbowale’s jumper from the corner with a second left gave Notre Dame a 91-89 overtime victory Friday night, handing the Huskies their second straight stunning and sudden end to an undefeated season in the national semifinals.
She finished with 27 points and Jackie Young had a career-high 32 to lead the Irish back to the championship game for the first time since 2015.
“I know I just had to shoot it at the last minute,” Ogunbowale said. “I didn’t want to give them a chance to get the ball. I went into Mamba mentality. Kobe’s here, so that’s what I tried to channel.”
It’s the second consecutive year an undefeated UConn team lost in the Final Four on a last-second shot in overtime. Last time it was Mississippi State and Morgan William, ending the Huskies’ 111-game win streak.
“There’s nothing you can say to a college kid after experiencing this two years in a row that’s going to make them feel any better about, you know,” Geno Auriemma said. “We had an amazing run for five months. That’s just the way it is. One weekend in March gets to decide your season.”
The Irish will face the Bulldogs — who won again in OT earlier Friday — on Sunday night in the title game. Muffet McGraw’s squad will be looking for its second national championship to go with the one the Irish won in 2001.
Ogunbowale had a chance to seal the game in the final minute of overtime, but she missed two free throws. Crystal Dangerfield then hit a 3-pointer to tie it at 89, setting up the fantastic finish. The Huskies threw the ball down the court after the 3, but didn’t get a chance to tie it.
“We were a little dejected at the end of regulation, but Arike I think was madder than anyone,” McGraw said. “She wanted the ball in her hands and we put it there for the end of the game.”
This was the latest chapter in the greatest current rivalry in women’s basketball. The sellout crowd that included Lakers great Kobe Bryant, who was sitting behind the Huskies bench with his wife and daughters, saw quite the show with epic comebacks from both teams. Bryant later tweeted at Ogunbowale, “Big Time shot Arike!”
Notre Dame has never beaten the Huskies in the national championship game. They now have won four of the five meetings in the Final Four, including twice in overtime.
“It was the second or third time we beat them in the semifinal, that’s been our lucky charm,” McGraw said. “We can’t seem to beat them in the final. To have a big lead, squander that and come from behind, this one is really special. It’s got to be the best one.”
MISSISSIPPI STATE 73, LOUISVILLE 63 (OT)
Once Roshunda Johnson hit the tying 3-pointer with seven seconds left in regulation and Teaira McCowan forced a miss on the other end, Mississippi State knew it was in good shape.
“We know we’re an overtime team,” All-American guard Victoria Vivians said.
Especially in the Final Four.
McCowan had 21 points and a Final Four-record 25 rebounds, Vivians scored 25 points, and Mississippi State reached the national championship game for the second straight year with a 73-63 OT win over Louisville on Friday night.
After Johnson’s jumper, Louisville’s Myisha Hines-Allen then drove the length of the floor but missed a layup with McCowan defending her.
In overtime, the Bulldogs asserted themselves and Morgan William, who hit the game-winning shot in OT last year in the Final Four to end UConn’s 111-game winning streak, made two free throws in the last minute to help Mississippi State (37-1) pull away.
Louisville (36-3) managed just one basket on 10 shots in the extra period.
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.