TAMPA, Fla. — After the Notre Dame defeated Connecticut, 81-76, within the Closing 4 on Friday, Coach Muffet McGraw, carrying a shirt as shiny because the college’s Golden Dome, did a jig of types on the court docket.
There have been loads of causes to rejoice because the Irish superior to their second straight N.C.A.A. girls’s basketball nationwide title recreation. They may play Baylor on Sunday.
[Examine Baylor’s win over the Oregon Geese.]
As soon as once more, Notre Dame had upended UConn, the sport’s longtime powerhouse, in a nationwide semifinal. The Huskies had been looking for their 12th journey to the title recreation, the place they’ve by no means misplaced.
They received 4 straight titles from 2013 to 2016, however have now misplaced within the semifinals three years in a row — falling to the Irish within the final two.
The Huskies, nonetheless, received by 18 factors in a regular-season December matchup at Notre Dame. UConn leads the general sequence, 37-13; Notre Dame has the sting on the Closing 4, 5-Three. This was the fifth time since 2001 that Notre Dame had defeated the Huskies within the semifinals.
Although it couldn’t match the suspense of final 12 months’s extra time win by Notre Dame, Friday’s semifinal was a thriller worthy of one of the vital compelling rivalries within the collegiate recreation. The lead shifted repeatedly for many of the fourth quarter, virtually mirroring the sooner semifinal, when Baylor barely escaped a tenacious Oregon workforce.
The Huskies led by 9 factors early within the fourth quarter, however key defensive performs by the senior ahead Brianna Turner and large pictures by guard Arike Ogunbowale, whose jumper beat the Huskies a 12 months in the past, modified the momentum.
“She’s virtually an inconceivable matchup one on one,” Connecticut Coach Geno Auriemma mentioned of Ogunbowale.
After a quiet first half with simply 2 factors, Ogunbowale exploded within the remaining 20 minutes, ending with 23.
After Notre Dame (35-Three) trailed by 9 early within the fourth quarter, the Irish scored 13 of the subsequent 15 factors and took a 68-66 lead on Ogunbowale’s brief jumper. The groups then traded the lead 5 instances over the subsequent jiffy, with Jessica Shepard hitting a jumper from the foul line with 1 minute 30 seconds left to place the Irish forward, 75-74.
Turner completed with 15 factors and 5 blocks.
“That was the important thing. The lady was superb,” McGraw mentioned.
When the Irish received the nationwide title final 12 months, Turner was out with an knee harm, which made this second particularly significant. Now she has an opportunity to win a nationwide title of her personal.
A day after giving a passionate speech about gender inequality and the necessity for extra feminine leaders, McGraw took notice that each coaches within the remaining are girls. (Baylor is coached by Kim Mulkey, who has received two nationwide titles there.)
Although that was important to McGraw, she shortly turned the dialog again to the duty at hand.
“This weekend is all about basketball,” she mentioned.