News and notes from the NCAA women's Final Four
By MITCH STACY
Mar. 31, 2018
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — So how do they top that?
The two national women's semifinal games Friday night were packed with drama, lead-changes, emotion and huge shots that sent the games into overtime.
Mississippi State's Roshunda Johnson hit the tying 3-pointer with seven seconds left to take the first game into overtime. The Bulldogs then outlasted Louisville in OT to earn their second national title game berth in as many years.
The second game saw perennial power UConn claw back time after time as the game wound down, only to lose it when Notre Dame's Arike Ogunbowale's hit a jumper from the corner with 1 second left.
"I didn't know it was going in, but it felt good," Ogunbowale said.
"Unbelievable," Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. "First time we've ever had two overtime games in the Final Four. I think just great basketball. Both games, hard fought battles and exciting for the fans."
The Irish — left with just seven scholarship players due to injuries — advance to their sixth national championship game and fifth in the last eight years. They were national champions in 2001.
"I think the coaches really prepared us for the moment," Notre Dame star Jackie Young said. "They didn't let us get all hyped up whenever we had a lead. I think we were able to keep our composure and just get the job done."
Most of the Mississippi State team ended up in Victoria Vivians' hotel room watching the rowdy end of the Notre Dame-UConn game.
"It was pretty phenomenal," said Vivians, an All-American guard who had 25 points against Louisville. "And I feel like tomorrow you have two great teams playing again. They both played in overtime last night, and we both know what to expect. I feel like it's going to be a great game to watch."
KOBE IN THE HOUSE: Kobe Bryant was there Friday night to watch the UConn women but spread a little love to admirers.
Vivians was bold enough to ask for a picture taken with the former Lakers superstar .
"I was very excited," she said Saturday. "I just walked up and said, 'can I take a picture?' He said good game, and when he said that I almost passed out. He was actually watching me out there! It was amazing."
Bryant even tweeted at Ogunbowale after her game-winning shot.
"Big time shot Arike! We are a @UConnWBB family but we love seeing great players making great plays," Bryant tweeted.
Ogunbowale tweeted back: "Wow, my life is complete."
But Bryant wasn't done yet: "Nah... it's complete by finishing the job on Sunday."
The NBA great later followed Ogunbowale on Twitter.
BIG VS. REALLY BIG: Teaira McCowan is Notre Dame's problem now.
Mississippi State's 6-foot-7 center continued her NCAA Tournament dominance on Friday, scoring 21 points and grabbing 25 rebounds against Louisville. When she got her 24th of the game, McCowan broke the rebounding mark set by Charlotte Smith of North Carolina in 1994. She posted just the third 20-20 game in women's Final Four history. Her 92 rebounds are the most ever in a single tournament.
Notre Dame's Jessica Shepard (6-foot-4) and Kathryn Westbeld (6-foot-2) will be charged with trying to keep McCowan in check on Sunday.
"She is a force inside, a tremendous player," McGraw said. "Works the boards like nobody I've ever seen. She's a tremendous rebounder, a phenomenal player inside. She's so dominant. We haven't faced anybody like that."
TIP-INS: The Irish need 85 points in the championship game to tie the all-time record for most points in an NCAA Tournament. The record — 547 — was set by UConn in 2000.... Young's 32 points were the most by a Notre Dame player in a Final Four game. ... Mississippi State is the seventh program to play for back-to-back NCAA title games. ... Mississippi State started the game against Louisville 0 for 10, then made 25 of its final 52 shots.
Follow Mitch Stacy at http://twitter.com/mitchstacy