Sunday afternoon, two of the most storied programs in women’s college basketball will face off for the 49th meeting all-time.
No rivalry has dominated women’s college basketball in the past decade quite like Notre Dame-UConn. Ranked number one and two in the current standings, it is once again going to be a game with a lot of meaning. And after the crazy show that happened in Columbus for the Final Four eight months ago, this is sure to be a great second act.
Since February of 2009, the Irish and Huskies have played 23 times. Ten of those games have come in either the Big East Tournament or NCAA Tournament. But unfortunately for the Irish, it has been pretty lopsided, especially as of late. UConn just rattled off a seven game win streak before the Irish snapped the streak in March.
The Irish really struggled to keep the games close during UConn’s seven game win streak. Only one game — the last win for the Huskies — was closer than 10 points at the final whistle. The fun of the rivalry was starting to lose its fun. But then came the Final Four and the beginning of the national coming out party for the most clutch player in women’s college basketball.
At halftime in Columbus, the Irish were down 41-34. If Notre Dame didn’t turn it around at halftime, they were looking at the game getting away from them and an eighth straight loss to their long-time rivals. But a strong second half got them situated. After taking the lead with roughly three minutes left to go, the Irish started to play with some swagger and looked as if they could pull the victory off. The last minute would be where things would start to fall apart for the Irish. Overtime would be necessary, and that’s where Arike Ogunbowale stepped in. As time winded down, Ogunbowale got the ball in her hands and went to work. And the rest is history.
That bucket was the spark that this rivalry needed again. UConn fans won’t admit to this, but a rivalry gets boring when one team dominates for so long. What makes a rivalry great is the back and forth nature of it, never knowing who is going to pull it out. When the Irish pulled off the win, it gave purpose to the matchup once again.
So when the two teams take the court on Sunday afternoon, expect what this rivalry always provides: a high scoring display of the women’s game.