The Notre Dame women’s basketball team stunned the UConn Huskies Friday night to advance to the national championship game.
It has been a magical season full of overcoming adversity and injury, achieving individual goals and awards, growth, change and yes — a lot of wins. On Friday, the Irish added one more win — their biggest of the season — taking down the Connecticut Huskies by a score of 91-89 in overtime.
Early on, Notre Dame was fearless and the more aggressive team. They took a ten point lead into the second quarter, and the game started to look like their earlier meeting with the Huskies this season.
In the second quarter, the Huskies stop settling for 3-point shots and started penetrating the Notre Dame zone. That led to a massive UConn run, culminating in a seven-point Husky lead at the half.
After a back-and-forth third quarter, the Irish were able to cut the lead to three points heading into the final quarter. Notre Dame kept fighting, trying to go blow for blow with the Huskies and eventually regaining the lead. A late Kathryn Westbeld steal helped Notre Dame take a solid lead. A flurry of turnovers helped UConn tie the game back up and send it to overtime.
The overtime period was every bit as exciting as regulation, with Arike Ogunbowale stepping up, forcing the issue, getting to the line and taking over the game. A made free throw by Jackie Young gave the Irish two possession lead with 43 seconds to go, but UConn answered with two quick buckets to tie the game again.
And then Arike Ogunbowale hit the biggest shot of her life.
After a long inbounds pass from UConn and a missed runner, it was over. As the clock hit zero, it meant one more giant step to the top of the college basketball mountain for the Irish.
Ogunbowale finished with 27 points.
Jessica Shepard was her usual physical and efficient self in the paint, putting up 15 points and hauling down 11 rebounds. Marina Mabrey had a couple of nice defensive plays but struggled to find her range throughout the night from behind the arc.
Kathyrn Westbeld was the warrior we’ve come to know her as, chipping in 8 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists. And Jackie Young was the star of the night for the Irish, leading the way with 32 points and 11 rebounds.
The Irish will take on Mississippi State Sunday night at 6 pm EST on ESPN for the national title.