Buzzer-beater pushes Notre Dame past UConn in women's Final Four

The UConn women celebrate their 2016 championship

UConn plays Notre Dame in a national semifinal on Friday. The teams traded the lead in the third quarter before the Huskies went up 60-57 heading into the fourth quarter.

The rivalry though, has been a bit one-sided recently. From the early 1970s to the late 1980s, women's basketball at UConn was, at best, an afterthought.

Jackie Young had a career-high 32 points for the Fighting Irish, who will face Mississippi State on Sunday in the championship game.

UConn pulled off an unbelievable comeback in the final seconds to send its national semifinal against Notre Dame to overtime. "It was a dogfight. I thought they played their hearts out". We call her the glue because she keeps us together. I practice this all the time.

Samuelson had 16 points and seven rebounds Friday.

"You really can't describe what goes into - what goes into getting here and trying to win a championship", Auriemma said afterward. "It's very, very hard", he said. In the first 37 years of the women's tournament, Auriemma and UConn have won 11 titles. That loss took place a year ago Saturday, and it was UConn's only loss one in the past 149 games, the main motivation to finishing this season the right way. Yet, in the past two seasons, there have been heartbreaking defeats that have sent the Huskies back to Storrs.

"They made one more big play tonight than we did", Auriemma said.

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The Huskies (36-1) led 41-34 at the half before Notre Dame rallied. "UConn, of course, and just to get back here, it's a blessing".

Just like their regular-season meeting, Notre Dame started out hot. Crystal Dangerfield then hit a 3-pointer to tie it at 89, setting up the fantastic finish. A second Irish turnover in the final seconds gave UConn a chance to win, but Gabby Williams' short, off-balanced fadeaway jumper missed and the game went to overtime knotted at 79.

Notre Dame senior Kathyrn Westbeld has been the constant for the Irish. But Williams couldn't connect on a basket in the final seconds when it bounced off the rim. Nevertheless, a golden opportunity to put away the game in regulation was missed - but it didn't demoralize the Irish in overtime. That began a 28-6 run over the next 9 minutes to give the Huskies a 39-30 advantage.

The No. 1 Mississippi State Bulldogs advanced to the Women's Final Four Friday, beating the Louisville Cardinals 73-63. Collier had 24 points for CT.

Still, the Fighting Irish have plenty of weapons and a balanced attack that features four players who averaged more than 14 points per game this season, led by Ogunbowale.

Ogunbowale's jumper over the outstretched arms of Williams was the game-winner.

"I think I'm kind of torn between crying and laughing", McGraw said.

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Not so much for the Huskies. "It's hard. It's very, very hard". There are no bad teams, no bad players.

The network also looked to bring in Spidercam for its Final Four and National Championship broadcasts, which required separate surveys to determine cable and camera placement.

That's what happens when you coach two of the nation's best teams and play in the same conference.

The Bulldogs are the lone SEC team left in the final four. Just twice in the past 148 games.

"There's nothing you can say to college players to make them feel better after two straight years like this". There have been 12 lead changes.

"I knew I had to shoot it at the last moment", Ogunbowale told ESPN after the game. "I wanted to Mamba mentality".

That success has come despite Notre Dame losing four key contributors to knee injuries. 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.

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It's rare that a team gets one shot to beat UConn. Young led Notre Dame with 13 points at halftime and had the support of 10 points from Shepard, but the Huskies got hot and carried that momentum into the second half. Stevens had five quick points, and Katie Lou Samuelson hit a 3-pointer during the Huskies' run. He is an award-winning writer and has been covering sports in CT and New England for more than 30 years.



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