(WINDSOR, ON) – The Notre Dame fighting Irish stuck a dagger through the heart of Mississippi State (37-1) with it’s second buzzer beater in as many games to claim the 2018 NCAA women’s basketball championship.
Tied 58-58 with only a few ticks left on the clock, Notre Dame guard Arike Ogunbowale took the inbound pass and fired it through the hoop to put the Irish up 61-58, and earned them their 2nd ever national title – and 1st since 2001.
Notre Dame’s impressive season-ending feat Sunday was essentially a repeat performance for the Irish (34-3) and Ogunbowale, who also nailed a buzzer beater to spoil the 36-0 perfect season of UConn, 91-89, in the semis on Friday.
In the title match, Notre Damn trailed Mississippi by as much as 14 points in the first half.
In terms of individual award winners this season the Naismith Trophy winner, as national player of the year went to A’ja Wilson, of South Carolina State. The coach of the year honours went to Mississippi State’s head coach Vic Shaeffer, which was somewhat of a consolation for him and his players losing in the championship final.
Michigan vs Villanova
It took the Michigan Wolverines most of the game to reel the Cinderella Loyola Chicago Ramblers in for a 69-57 win. More importantly, they did it in the only way that’s going to matter when they face they heavily favoured top seeded Villanova Wildcats in tonight’s championship game; perimeter and interior defense.
While Michigan struggled to get past Loyola’s topsy-turvy floor play, and the divine intervention called down by team’s 98 year old chaplan/nun, sister Jean Delores Schmidt, the Wildcats easily tamed fellow No. 1 Kansas 95-79 in record fashion. Villanova destroyed the Jayhawks from the outside, sinking a record 13 three pointers from well beyond the 20 foot arc in the first half alone, then added five more in the 2nd half.
However, unlike the sagging Kansas defense, Michigan coach John Beilein is sure to have the Maize and Blue stepping out to challenge the Villanova sharp shooters and force their offense into the paint. Ironically, the Michigan bigs will be especially tasked to be part of the perimeter shield, as the Wildcats height is a large part of the outside shooting frenzy.
In that department Michigan will be relying on Moritz (Moe) Wagner, the German import who led the charge against Loyola with a 24-point, 15-rebound double-double. The first of its kind since Larry Bird and Akeem Olajuwon did it.
Leading coach Jay Wright’s Villanova attack will be the national player of the year, Jalen Brunson, who scored 18 points and dished out 6 assists during the onslaught against Kansas.
Michigan can also light it up from outside, and have some of the best penetration guards off the dribble in the land, while Villanova is also good defensively on the perimeter and in the paint. So, all told, the game may come down to who has the better mid-range, 10 to 15 foot, shooting game.
As neither team has established superiority in that department thus far, the nod has to go to Michigan by 5 points, mainly because all the pressure is on Villanova to win and that Michigan is the underdog.
Not to mention, also because Michigan appears to have that same March Madness swagger that the Glen Rice, Sean Higgins, and Rumeal Robinson championship team out of Ann Arbor had in 1989.