It happened again.
For the second-straight season, the UConn women’s basketball team fell in the national semifinal on a last-second shot in overtime.
With the score knotted at 89 apiece, Arike Ogunbowale nailed the game-winning shot with one second left to send Notre Dame to the national title game while simultaneously ending the careers of UConn seniors Kia Nurse and Gabby Williams.
“I tried to shoot it at the last [second] because we didn’t want to give them a chance,” Ogunowale said. “I guess I practiced that shot enough and my teammates trusted me with the ball.”
Katie Lou Samuelson had a chance to tie it at the end, but the shot rimmed out. It is the Huskies’ seventh-straight overtime loss dating back to December 1, 2004, and the fourth to Notre Dame.
For the second consecutive year, the Huskies were simply outplayed most of the game and despite executing a handful of huge plays, they also made more than a few back-breaking mistakes that they simply could not overcome. They needed a miracle steal and bucket from Kia Nurse in the waning seconds of regulation to tie the game and send it to overtime.
Notre Dame punched UConn in the mouth at the start, taking a 13-point lead at one point. However, the Huskies fought back in the second quarter and went into the halftime up 41-34.
But UConn couldn’t pull away as they often do and the Irish fought back to take the lead, starting 13 minutes of heart-stopping back and forth action with the lead changing hands on nearly every possession.
A handful of crucial turnovers at the end of regulation killed the Huskies as they fell behind by four in the final minute of regulation. They fought to bring it within two with 15 seconds left, but Notre Dame held possession on the inbounds.
Geno Auriemma, Gabby Williams, Kia Nurse, Crystal Dangerfield, Napheesa Collier, Azura Stevens and Katie Lou Samuelson locker room video
However, Nurse single-handedly extended her college career as she stole the inbounds pass and took it all the way to the hoop to tie the game. The Irish lost the ball on the ensuing possession and gave UConn the ball with just over three seconds left. Williams got a look but could not convert, sending the game to overtime.
The battle between the two giants of the sport continued into overtime as neither team gave an inch in the first few minutes. However, the Huskies began to lose their footing similar to the end of regulation and fell behind by two possessions once again.
They got the deficit to within three but had to foul. The Irish missed both free throws and Crystal Dangerfield made them pay with a game-tying 3-pointer with 27 ticks remaining. But that meant Notre Dame could hold for the last shot and Ogunbowale took the ball to the near side of the court and put a shot over Napheesa Collier with one second left. The Huskies second attempt at a miracle to tie fell short and thus their season came to another devastating conclusion.
Notre Dame deserves a lot of credit for the way they attacked and kept fighting. For UConn, they need to re-evaluate the way they handle high-pressure situations and remember the sun will come out tomorrow. It’s sad to think we just saw Kia and Gabby play their final games in a UConn uniform, but they also deserve credit for their amazing careers and everything they’ve contributed to UConn women’s basketball.