By: Jay Rosquites
EBC Florida Bureau
TAMPA, Florida (Eagle News) – The storied rivalry between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the UConn Huskies has long dominated women’s college basketball, with UConn leading their head-to head series with 37 wins. But for the second consecutive year in the Final Four in their 50th meeting, the Fighting Irish came up top with an 81-76 come from behind victory, denying the Huskies once again to compete for another championship title.
After a low scoring first half, both teams came out battling in the third quarter with Katie Lou Samuelson, Napheesa Collier, and Christyn Williams building a comfortable lead for the Huskies against the defending NCAA champions.
In the final quarter, UConn continued to put up more fast break points, made defensive stands, and controlled the paint. But with 4:30 left, Notre Dame showed poise with Megan Walker nailing a 3-pointer to tie the game. With under one minute to go in the game, Arike Ogunbowale, drew a foul and made both free-throws, giving Notre Dame a 3-point lead. Brianna Turner made a huge block on Collier, allowing Notre Dame to draw one more foul, then notching in two more free-throws to secure the win.
Ogunbowale finished with 23 points and six rebounds, recounted on her team’s victory.“I think we really as a team picked up our defense. We were scoring, but we weren’t giving up stops. We were trading buckets. Once we started getting stops, started getting scores, that’s when we went on a run.”
UConn’s loss puts them on a three-year drought of making the finals. The Huskies overall have won 11 championships, the most in NCAA Women’s basketball history. Head coach, Geno Auriemma gave his credit to the Fighting Irish where it was due.
“Sometimes we try to make the game really, really complicated. It’s not. It’s not complicated. Most teams are going to give you a chance to win the game. They gave us a chance the game, and we weren’t good enough to win it”, said Auriemma. “There’s nothing wrong with that. They were better than us”.
Notre Dame will attempt to defend their championship title against a hungry Baylor Lady Bears, the nation’s top team. Both teams played for the 2012 championship title won by Baylor.
(Eagle News Service)