Notre Dame buzzer-beater stuns Mississippi State in NCAA women's title game

Arike Ogunbowale did it again.

Two nights after hitting a step-back jumper with a second to play that knocked out powerhouse UConn in the NCAA national semifinals, the junior from Milwaukee knocked down a running three-pointer with 0.1 seconds remaining to give Notre Dame a 61-58 victory over Mississippi State and win the program's second national title, 17 years to the day after the Fighting Irish won their first.

"It just felt right," said Ogunbowale, who scored 14 of her 18 points in the second half. "I practice late-game all the time. I just ran to Jackie [Young] and said, 'Throw it to me, throw it to me."'

Ogunbowale, who scored 27 points in Friday's epic semifinal win over the Huskies, earned most outstanding player honors for the tournament.

Ogunbowale said of her winning shot, "It just felt right."

Ogunbowale said of her winning shot, "It just felt right." (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)

Notre Dame had been to the championship game in 2011, 2012, 2014 and 2015, falling short each time. But this version of Muffet McGraw's squad refused to lose, and the run was even more improbable because the Irish lost four players over the season to ACL injuries.

"It's Easter Sunday, and all the Catholics were praying for us," said McGraw, who was wearing floral shoes in honor of the holiday.

Her team pulled off the biggest comeback in title game history, rallying from a 15-point deficit in the third quarter and a five-point deficit in the final 1:58.

Marina Mabrey hit a 3-pointer from the wing and then Young had a shot in the lane to tie it.

After Teaira McCowan missed a layup with 27.8 seconds left, both teams turned the ball over. McCowan then fouled out of the game stopping an Irish fastbreak and set up the final 3 seconds.

After Ogunbowale's clutch shot, the officials huddled and put one-tenth of a second on the clock. A couple of Mississippi State players had already headed for the locker room, while Notre Dame players celebrated.

The court was cleared, and Mississippi State tossed a futile inbounds pass into the lane as the buzzer sounded, starting a wild celebration among the Irish faithful who were part of the sellout crowd in Columbus, Ohio. Many of the Notre Dame alums who were on teams that had fallen just short of winning a title were there to enjoy it, including Natalie Achonwa, Natalie Novosel and Becca Bruszewki.

For the fourth straight NCAA game, the Irish found themselves trailing at the half. They were down 40-25 early in the third quarter before finally getting on track offensively. The Irish closed the period with a 16-1 run to tie the game at 41 heading to the final quarter.

The Irish (35-3) were buoyed by severe foul trouble by Mississippi State that saw all five of its starters with three fouls in the third quarter.

It didn't look good for the Irish in the first half. After getting out to a 12-6 lead with 3:41 left in the opening quarter, Mississippi State outscored Notre Dame 24-5 the remainder of the half. The Irish went just over 8 minutes without a point, missing seven shots and committing five turnovers during the game-changing run.

At the same time, the 6-foot-7 McCowan and Victoria Vivians were powering the Bulldogs offense. McCowan got the burst going with five straight points and Vivians capped it with the final six points to give the Bulldogs a 30-17 lead at the half.

Vivians finished with 21 points and McCowan 18 to go along with 17 rebounds to lead the Bulldogs (37-2).

The Irish had just three points in the second quarter, setting an NCAA Tournament record for the fewest points in a period. That was five less than the previous mark for futility set by Syracuse in 2016 against UConn.

It didn't matter in the end as Notre Dame found a way to rally, just as they had done all season.

"This team is relentlessly driven," said Jess Shepard, who scored 19 points to lead the Irish. "We've been down multiple times this year, but nobody stops us."

This was McGraw's 800th win at Notre Dame and the 888th of her career.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.