- Andy Lyons/Getty
- Notre Dame beat Mississippi in the NCAA Tournament title game on Sunday when Arike Ogunbowale hit the winning 3-pointer as time expired.
- Notre Dame players and coaches acknowledged that the shot came off a broken play and that they had wanted to get the ball to a different player.
- When Notre Dame couldn’t run the play it wanted, Ogunbowale followed instructions to get the ball, and she delivered the shot of a lifetime.
Notre Dame won the women’s basketball NCAA Tournament on Sunday when Arike Ogunbowale came through again with a winning shot, this time against Mississippi State.
After nailing a step-back jumper that took down Connecticut on Friday and propelled Notre Dame into the title game, Ogunbowale caught the ball Sunday with three seconds remaining and the game tied, made her way to the elbow, and launched a contested 3-pointer as time expired.
Despite the heroic moment, the play was not designed to go to Ogunbowale. She had struggled Sunday, shooting just 5-for-20 before the final shot. Instead, the ball was intended to go to Jessica Shepard, who was 8-for-10 from the field with 19 points.
But the inbounding guard, Jackie Young, had reservations about getting Shepard the ball cleanly, so she had a backup plan.
“I didn’t like the way it looked,” Young said. “I knew, if I threw it, it would have possibly been a turnover. So I talked to Arike before, and I was like, if the matchup doesn’t look right or if Jess isn’t in the position that we’re looking for, then come to the ball. And I just made sure Arike was literally coming to the ball before I passed it to her.”
Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw even acknowledged that she wanted to get the ball close to the basket, afraid that if her team got the ball on the perimeter, Mississippi State might foul to stop the clock.
“We didn’t want to do anything that was going away from the basket, where they could maybe take some time off the clock,” McGraw said. “We thought, ‘Get as close to the basket as you can with Jess.’ She could turn and shoot and maybe get fouled. That was the first option.
“Arike hadn’t been shooting the ball particularly well. Jess was.”
Ogunbowale then delivered the shot of a lifetime.
ARIKE OGUNBOWALE JUST WONNOTRE DAME THE 2018 NATIONAL TITLE! pic.twitter.com/ZCNhyF1uIf
— ESPN (@espn) April 2, 2018
As Deadspin noted, on this angle, you can hear Ogunbowale call for the ball as she ran to the sideline.
From my seat pic.twitter.com/7ngRPWabJS
— Michelle Smith (@macsmith413) April 2, 2018
Though the Notre Dame players all said they felt confident in Ogunbowale’s shot, it wasn’t necessarily the play they would have drawn up. According to Notre Dame guard Marina Mabrey, Ogunbowale had practiced that fade-away 3-pointer frequently and rarely made it.
“She always practices that shot in warm-ups, and it irritates me because she misses it a lot,” Mabrey said. “We’ll be trying to move to our next drill in warm-ups, and she’ll shoot that. Honestly, it doesn’t go in all that often.
“I saw her do the shot tonight, and I thought, ‘That’s good.’ I had a really good angle, and I saw the rotation, and I was like, ‘Wow, she is the absolute GOAT.'”