Columbus, Ohio —
Arike Ogunbowale hit the shot of her life — again.
Ogunbowale floated in a 3-pointer from the corner with 0.1 of a second left, lifting Notre Dame to its second women's basketball title with a 61-58 comeback victory over Mississippi State in the NCAA championship game Sunday night.
It was the second straight game the junior guard hit a shot in the final second to carry the Fighting Irish. Her jumper with one second remaining in overtime knocked off previously unbeaten and top overall seed Connecticut in the semifinals Friday.
With this game tied, Ogunbowale took the inbounds pass from Jackie Young, dribbled twice toward the corner and, closely guarded, lofted home an off-balance 3 from in front of the Notre Dame bench, nearly the same angle as her shot that beat the Huskies.
“It just felt right,” said Ogunbowale, who scored 16 of her 18 points in the second half. “I practice late game all the time. I just ran to Jackie and said, ‘Throw it to me, throw it to me.’ ”
Ogunbowale earned Most Outstanding Player honors for the tournament and also received a congratulatory tweet from Kobe Bryant, who took in the semifinal win over UConn.
All the Irish players could celebrate after pulling off the biggest comeback in title-game history. They rallied from a 15-point deficit in the third quarter and were down five in the final 1:58. Marina Mabrey hit a 3-pointer from the wing, and Young made a shot in the lane to tie it.
The title came 17 years to the day after Notre Dame (35-3) won its only other championship in 2001 on Easter.
“It's Easter Sunday, and all the Catholics were praying for us,” said coach Muffet McGraw, who was wearing floral shoes in honor of the holiday.
When the final buzzer sounded, a wild celebration started with the Irish faithful who were part of the sellout crowd. McGraw's team had fallen short four times in seven years in the title game, losing in 2011, 2012, 2014 and 2015. Many of the Notre Dame alumni who were on teams that had fallen just short of winning a title were there to enjoy it, including Natalie Achonwa, Natalie Novosel and Becca Bruszewki.
This version of McGraw's squad refused to lose, and the run was even more improbable because the Irish lost four players over the season to ACL injuries.
Tied as the clock ran down, Mississippi State star Teaira McCowan missed a layup with 27.8 seconds left, and both teams turned the ball over in a wild sequence. McCowan fouled out of the game stopping an Irish fast break after consecutive turnovers and that set up the final 3 seconds.
After Ogunbowale's clutch shot, the officials huddled and put one-tenth of a second on the clock. A couple of Mississippi State players had already headed for the locker room, while Notre Dame players celebrated.
The court was cleared, and Mississippi State tossed a futile inbounds pass into the lane as the buzzer sounded.
“It hurts right now,” Bulldogs coach Vic Schaefer said. “They played their hearts out.”
It was the second year in a row that Mississippi State (37-2) fell short in the title game. It lost to South Carolina last year after ending UConn's record 111-game winning streak.
For the fourth straight NCAA game, the Irish found themselves trailing at the half. They were down 40-25 early in the third quarter before finally getting on track offensively. The Irish closed the period with a 16-1 run to tie the game at 41 heading to the final quarter.
The Irish were buoyed by severe foul trouble by Mississippi State. All five Bulldogs starters had three fouls by the third quarter.
It didn't look good for the Irish in the first half. After getting out to a 12-6 lead with 3:41 left in the opening quarter, Mississippi State outscored Notre Dame 24-5 the remainder of the half. The Irish went just over 8 minutes without a point, missing seven shots and committing five turnovers during the game-changing run.
At the same time, the 6-foot-7 McCowan and Victoria Vivians were powering the Bulldogs. McCowan got the burst going with five straight points and Vivians capped it with the final six points to give the Bulldogs a 30-17 lead at the half.
Vivians finished with 21 points and McCowan 18 to go along with 17 rebounds to lead the Bulldogs.
The Irish had just three points in the second quarter, setting an NCAA tournament record for the fewest points in a period. That was five fewer than the previous mark for futility set by Syracuse in 2016 against UConn.
It didn't matter in the end as Notre Dame found a way to rally, just as it had done all season.
“This team is relentlessly driven,” said Jessica Shepard, who scored 19 points to lead the Irish. “We've been down multiple times this year, but nobody stops us.”
Notre Dame 14 3 24 20—61
Miss. State 17 13 11 17 —58
NOTRE DAME (35-3): Shepard 8-10 3-3 19, Westbeld 2-4 2-2 6, Mabrey 3-9 3-3 10, Ogunbowale 6-21 5-7 18, Young 2-7 2-2 6, Nelson 1-1 0-0 2, Totals 22-52 15-17 61.
MISSISSIPPI ST. (37-2): McCowan 7-19 4-8 18, Johnson 1-6 0-0 3, Schaefer 2-5 0-0 6, Vivians 8-18 4-5 21, William 3-4 0-0 6, Bibby 0-2 0-0 0, Campbell 0-0 0-0 0, Danberry 1-5 0-2 2, Holmes 0-0 2-2 2, Totals 22-59 10-17 58.
3-point goals: Notre Dame 2-9 (Shepard 0-1, Westbeld 0-1, Mabrey 1-4, Ogunbowale 1-3), Mississippi St. 4-16 (Johnson 1-5, Schaefer 2-5, Vivians 1-5, William 0-1). Assists: Notre Dame 8 (Shepard 2), Mississippi St. 9 (Danberry 3). Fouled out: Mississippi St. McCowan. Rebounds: Notre Dame 35 (Westbeld 9), Mississippi St. 38 (McCowan 17). Total fouls: Notre Dame 17, Mississippi St. 21. Technical fouls—None. A—19,599.
Most women’s championships
11 — Connecticut
8 — Tennessee
2 — Baylor
2 — Louisiana Tech
2 — Notre Dame
2 — Southern Cal
2 — Stanford
1 — Maryland
1 — North Carolina
1 — Old Dominion
1 — Purdue
1 — South Carolina
1 — Texas
1 — Texas A&M
1 — Texas Tech
Geno Auriemma, Connecticut, 11
Pat Summitt, Tennessee, 8
Muffet McGraw, Notre Dame, 2
Kim Mulkey, Baylor, 2
Linda Sharp, Southern Cal, 2
Tara VanDerveer, Stanford, 2
Leon Barmore, Louisiana Tech, 1
Gary Blair, Texas A&M, 1
Jody Conradt, Texas, 1
Brenda Frese, Maryland, 1
Sylvia Hatchell, North Carolina, 1
Sonja Hogg, Louisiana Tech, 1
Carolyn Peck, Purdue, 1
Marsha Sharp, Texas Tech, 1
Dawn Staley, South Carolina, 1
Marianne Stanley, Old Dominion, 1
(the first player listed each year was the Final Four Most Outstanding Player):
2018 — Arike Ogunbowale, Notre Dame; Teaira McCowan, Mississippi St.; Napheesa Collier, UConn; Victoria Vivians, Mississippi St.; Jessica Shepard, Notre Dame.
2017 — A'ja Wilson, South Carolina; Morgan William, Mississippi St.; Allisha Gray, South Carolina; Victoria Vivians, Mississippi St.; Gabby Williams, UConn.
2016 — Breanna Stewart, UConn; Morgan Tuck, UConn; Moriah Jefferson, UConn; Talia Walton, Washington; Brittney Sykes, Syracuse.
2015 — Breanna Stewart, UConn; Jewell Loyd, ND; Briana Turner, ND; Moriah Jefferson, UConn; Morgan Tuck, UConn.
2014 — Breanna Stewart, UConn; Jewell Loyd, Notre Dame; Kayla McBride, Notre Dame; Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, UConn; Stefanie Dolson, UConn.
2013 — Breanna Stewart, UConn; Bria Hartley, UConn; Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, UConn; Kelly Faris, UConn; Antonita Slaughter, Louisville.
2012 — Brittney Griner, Baylor; Odyssey Sims, Baylor; Destiny Williams, Baylor; Skylar Diggins, Notre Dame; Nnemkadi Ogwumike, Stanfor.
2011 — Danielle Adams, Texas A&M; Skylar Diggins, Notre Dame; Maya Moore, UConn; Tyra White, Texas A&M; Devereaux Peters, Notre Dame.
2010 — Maya Moore UConn; Tina Charles, UConn; Nnemkadi Ogwumike, Stanford; Kayla Pedersen, Stanford; Danielle Robinson, Oklahoma.
2009 — Tina Charles, UConn; Maya Moore UConn; Renee Montgomery, UConn; Angel McCoughtry, Louisville; Jayne Appel, Stanford.
2008 — Candace Parker, Tennessee; Nicky Anosike, Tennessee; Shannon Bobbitt, Tennessee; Sylvia Fowles, LSU; Candice Wiggins, Stanford.
2007 — Candace Parker, Tennessee; Matee Ajavon, Rutgers; Nicky Anosike, Tennessee; Shannon Bobbitt, Tennessee; Kia Vaughn, Rutgers.
2006 — Laura Harper, Maryland; Alison Bales, Duke; Monique Currie, Duke; Erlana Larkins, North Carolina; Kristi Toliver, Maryland.
2005 — Sophia Young, Baylor; Steffanie Blackmon, Baylor; Lindsay Bowen, Michigan State; Kristin Haynie, Michigan State; Emily Niemann, Baylor.
2004 — Diana Taurasi, UConn; Janel McCarville, Minnesota; Jessica Moore, UConn; Ann Strother, UConn; Shanna Zolman, Tennessee.
2003 — Diana Taurasi, UConn; Ann Strother, UConn; Kara Lawson, Tennessee; Gwen Jackson, Tennessee; Alana Beard, Duke.
2002 — Swin Cash, UConn; Sue Bird, UConn; Asjha Jones, UConn; Stacey Dales, Oklahoma; Rosalind Ross, Oklahoma.
2001 — Ruth Riley, Notre Dame; Niele Ivey, Notre Dame; Katie Douglas, Purdue; Shalicia Hurns, Purdue; Shereka Wright; Purdue.
2000 — Shea Ralph, UConn; Sue Bird, UConn; Asjha Jones, UConn; Svetlana Abrosimova, UConn; Tamika Catchings, Tennessee.
1999 — Ukari Figgs, Purdue; Stephanie White-McCarty, Purdue; Katie Douglas, Purdue; Michele VanGorp, Duke; Nicole Erickson, Duke.
1998 — Chamique Holdsclaw, Tennessee; Kellie Jolly, Tennessee; Tamika Catchings, Tennessee; Tamicha Jackson, Louisiana Tech, Chasity Melvin, N.C. State
1997 — Chamique Holdsclaw, Tennessee; Ticha Penicheiro, Old Dominion; Clarisse Machanguana, Old Dominion; Kellie Jolly, Tennessee, Nyree Roberts, Old Dominion.
1996 — Michelle Marciniak, Tennessee; La'Keshia Frett, Georgia; Chamique Holdsclaw, Tennessee; Saudia Roundtree, Georgia, Tiffani Johnson, Tennessee.
1995 — Rebecca Lobo, UConn; Kara Wolters, UConn; Jennifer Rizzotti, UConn; Jamelle Elliott, UConn; Nikki McCray, Tennessee.
1994 — Charlotte Smith, North Carolina; Pam Thomas, Louisiana Tech; Tonya Sampson, North Carolina; Vickie Johnson, Louisiana Tech; Betsy Harris, Alabama.
1993 — Sheryl Swoopes, Texas Tech; Krista Kirkland, Texas Tech; Nikki Keyton, Ohio State, Katie Smith, Ohio State, Heidi Gillingham, Vanderbilt.
1992 — Molly Goodenbour, Stanford; Rachel Hemmer, Stanford; Val Whiting, Stanford; Kim Pehlke, Western Kentucky; Dawn Staley, Virginia.
1991 — Dawn Staley, Virginia; Tonya Cardoza, Virginia; Daedra Charles, Tennessee; Dena Head, Tennessee; Sonja Henning, Stanford.
1990 — Jennifer Azzi, Stanford; Katy Steding, Stanford; Chantel Tremitiere, Auburn; Carolyn Jones, Auburn, Venus Lacy, Louisiana Tech.
1989 — Bridgette Gordon, Tennessee, Sheila Frost, Tennessee; Vickie Orr, Auburn; Deanna Tate, Maryland, Venus Lacy, Louisiana Tech.
1988 — Erica Westbrooks, Louisiana Tech; Teresa Weatherspoon, Louisiana Tech; Diann McNeil, Auburn; Ruthie Bolton, Auburn; Penny Toler, Long Beach State
1987 — Tonya Edwards, Tennessee; Bridgette Gordon, Tennessee; Teresa Weatherspoon, Louisiana Tech; Clarissa Davis, Texas; Cindy Brown, Long Beach State
1986 — Clarissa Davis, Texas, Cheryl Miller, Southern Cal; Cynthia Cooper, Southern Cal; Fran Harris, Texas; Clemette Haskins, Western Kentucky.
1985 — Tracy Claxton, Old Dominion; Medina Dixon, Old Dominion; Teresa Edwards, Georgia; Katrina McClain, Georgia; Lillie Mason, Western Kentucky.
1984 — Cheryl Miller, Southern Cal; Pam McGee, Southern Cal; Paula McGee, Southern Cal, Janice Lawrence, Louisiana Tech, Mary Ostrowski, Tennessee.
1983 — Cheryl Miller, Southern Cal; Paula McGee, Southern Cal; Janice Lawrence, Louisiana Tech; Jennfier White, Louisiana Tech; Anne Donovan, Old Dominion.
1982 — Janice Lawrence, Louisiana Tech; Pam Kelly, Louisiana Tech; Valerie Walker, Cheyney; Kim Mulkey, Louisiana Tech, Yolanda Laney, Cheyney.