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Notre Dame celebrating after defeating Mississippi State (4.0 Sports)

By:Sean Williams:|4.0 Sports Media

COLUMBUS, Ohio —Everybody doubted Notre Dame and the only people that believe in them was their coach Muffett McGraw and their loyal fans.

Notre Dame Arike Ogunboewale’s miraculous shot lifted Notre Dame to a 61-58 national championship victory. Notre Dame wins its second NCAA Championship, also claiming the 2001 title with a 68-66 victory over Purdue. The two Notre Dame title game victories have come by a combined five points. The Fighting Irish played in their sixth championship game and are now 2-4 in those games. Notre Dame joins Louisiana Tech, Baylor, USC and Stanford with two NCAA titles behind only UConn (11) and Tennessee (8) in that department.

“I work for this in practice. I practice late game moments all the time. It just felt right.” Notre Dame Arike Ogunboewale said.

With 40 seconds to play and scored tied at 58, MSU called a timeout and Vic Schaefer drew up a play that was designed to go down low on the blocks to Teaira McCowan. It worked perfectly and with 28 seconds left McCowan stepped around her defender and went for a layup which she makes 19 times out of 20. It rolled off the rim. The Irish rebounded.

It was a great play that was drawn up. McCowan just missed it.

Vic Schaefer couldn’t have drawn it up any better. If Teaira makes the shot we will be talking about the Bulldogs hoisting the National Championship Trophy.

“He said it was his fault because he didn’t get us home,” Blair said of her father. “At the end of the day, we have to go out and execute. So I don’t think it should be his fault and I don’t think anyone should think it’s his fault either.”

Teaira McCowan had 18 points and 17 rebounds in the championship game. She shattered the NCAA Tournament record for rebounds by 34 with 109 in State’s six games.

Really, no need for anyone to take the blame – unless you want to blame officials who collectively didn’t blow their whistles when Morgan William was tackled dribbling down mid-court with four seconds left, trying to get the Bulldogs in position to make the winning shot.

“There was no whistle, so I don’t guess there was a foul,” William said.

Notre Dame recovered the resulting loose ball. McCowan fouled Jackie Young, and Notre Dame called a timeout to set up the winning play, which was hardly a play at all. Ogunboewale made an off-balance, one-legged, falling away 20-footer that went through the hoop without a ripple. When it left her hand it looked like the shot was going to be a little long.

But she made the shot. Wow, she made it.

You have to give Ogunboewale credit for making her second game-winning shot of the Final Four. Give Notre Dame credit for coming back from a 15-point third quarter deficit. Credit Notre Dame’s zone defense, especially in the second half, for taking MSU out of its offensive flow. Give the Irish credit for doing about as good a job as can be done on McCowan on the biggest stage.

Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw held her team together mentally through the loss of four players to ACL injuries this season. The Irish used only six players against MSU.

“I’m just so speechless at this point. To see this team come back from yet another huge deficit, to see Arike make an incredible shot, to see the resilience of a team that never gave up.
Mississippi State was a tremendous defensive team. They really gave us a lot of problems in the first half. We lost our composure a little bit, but we got it back, and we just kept fighting.
Thank you, Jesus, on Easter Sunday.” Notre Dame head coach said Muffett McGraw said.

Notre Dame made one more play than the Bulldogs. That’s what it comes down to, one more play at the crucial time. Ogunboewale made the shot just a few minutes after State missed a bunnie. (The Irish also made 15 of 17 free throws from the charity stripe, while State made 10 of 17. That’s a five-point swing in a three-point game.)

Victoria Vivians had a game-high 21 points, nine rebounds and four steals in her final game.

Mississippi State ends the season with a program record of 37 wins. The MSU seniors have 126 wins in the last four seasons, the most by a class in school history. Junior Teaira McCowan grabbed 17 rebounds to finish the 2018 NCAA Tournament with a record 109 rebounds. That broke the old mark of 75 held by Minnesota’s Janel McCarville, who had 75 in 5 games in the 2004 tournament. McCowan had 25 in the National Semifinal vs. Louisville.

“They’re going to be so successful in life because of their grit, their determination, and how they embrace the grind of life, as well as the game of basketball. They played their hearts out … It hurts, but Notre Dame just made one more play.” Mississippi State Vic Schaefer said.

That really is what it comes down to. One more play. Notre Dame made it when it counted. MSU did not. And, yes, it hurt. But Mississippi doesn’t have nothing to hang their heads about.