No. 2 UConn at No. 1 Notre Dame
When: Sunday, 4 p.m.
Where: Purcell Pavilion, South Bend, Ind. Records: UConn (6-0); Notre Dame (7-0) TV: ESPN
Radio: 97-9 ESPN
KEEP AN EYE ON
The rematch: Arike Ogunbowale hasn’t forgotten the jumper she knocked down over Napheesa Collier’s outstretched arms last March.
Obviously, neither has UConn.
“I get tagged in it a lot on social media,” Ogunbowale, who hit a pair of buzzer-beaters in the Final Four, first against UConn and then in the national championship game against Mississippi State, said before the season. “I think every time I get tagged, I watch it about 10 times.”
The rematch of that national semifinal, which Notre Dame won 91-89 in overtime on the heroics of its All-American guard, takes place Sunday. Notre Dame is ranked No. 1 in the country and UConn No. 2.
“There’s a lot of history between our two teams,” Ogunbowale said. “It’s always a great game whenever we play each other. There’s never really a letdown in anything.”
That’s for sure. The Huskies and Fighting Irish, old Big East rivals, have met 48 times since 1996 (UConn leads 36-12). In 41 of those matchups either one or both teams have been ranked in the top 5. Seven times they’ve met in the Final Four.
“It reminds me of the old Tennessee series,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “Every game was like life and death. Every game was the game of the century. There was like 12 centuries in that series.”
They squared off twice last season, with the Huskies taking the initial meeting in Hartford, 80-71. The Fighting Irish, however, returned the favor when it mattered most. It was an all-toofamiliar feeling for the Huskies, who had lost a year earlier at the Final Four to Mississippi State under strikingly similar circumstances — an overtime buzzer-beater.
To some, that loss still lingers.
“Get over, forget about, I’m not really sure,” UConn point guard Crystal Dangerfield said. “I’m not really sure I’ve … gotten over it yet. But it’s not going to play into this season or this game because it’s a new chapter. We have a different team.”
As advertised: So far, Notre Dame has been as efficient and productive on offense as everyone expected. The Fighting Irish have already hit triple digits three times and are averaging a robust 91.1 points per game. And that’s with star guard Marina Mabrey having missed five games with a left quad injury. The Huskies, meanwhile, are averaging 84.2 points per game. All five starters are scoring in double figures, led by All-American guard Katie Lou Samuelson (20.0).
DePaul coach Doug Bruno — who has faced both teams this season — weighed in on the matchup following the Blue Demons’ 99-63 loss to UConn on Wednesday: “Pheesa’s a really tough matchup, Katie Lou’s a really tough matchup. … Arike, I think, is a better player this year off the confidence she gained from the Final Four last year. She’s just making better, sounder decisions. … Jackie Young’s become a much better player. … They’ve got (Brianna Turner) back. (Jessica) Shepard, I think, is in a more fit place. I think the experience makes a difference. Geno’s got some young players out there.”
History at a glance: UConn is 21-3 all-time in No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchups, including 5-1 against Notre Dame.