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UConn, Notre Dame ready to resume rivalry

01 April 2018

It was the second straight year that the Huskies lost on a last-second shot in the Final Four, with Mississippi State's William dashing their ideal season a year ago. The last four teams to defeat UConn in the national semifinals all lost in the championship game - notably the Fighting Irish in 2011 and 2012, and Mississippi State last season.

The Notre Dame will face Mississippi State, which advanced to the title game for the second straight year by rallying to beat Louisville 73-63 in overtime in the first semifinal.

UConn's last loss came almost a year ago on March 31, 2017, when it fell to Mississippi State in similar fashion in overtime of the national semifinals.

Now they are in different leagues - the Irish play in the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Huskies in the American Athletic Conference - and the rivalry is less intense, but no less predictive of deep runs in the N.C.A.A. tournament. "There are no bad teams".

There's just a team that came from nothing and climbed to the top showing others that they can do the same as well.

What struck me then was how much Auriemma wanted his team to be great and how much his players wanted to be great themselves. "And they had a lot of players that could decide the game", Auriemma told the media following the game. Notre Dame doesn't have that problem. UConn's lengthier lineup no longer settled on jump shots, found the middle and creases of the Irish defense and converted 12-of-19 field goals (no three-point attempts) in the second quarter while outscoring Notre Dame 27-10 in the second 10-minute sequence for the 41-34 halftime lead. "One weekend in March gets to decide your season".

UConn (37-1) finished two victories shy of a national title, again, two victories shy of another flawless season. "That's the world we live in", Auriemma said. That's clearly impressive, but, I mean, Geno Auriemma has coached UConn during a 90-game win streak and a 111-game win streak. The Fighting Irish's sophomore guard was the game's leading scorer.

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"Jackie Young, I don't know what to say about her".

The Huskies responded, scoring the first six points of the second quarter to cut deficit to four, 24-20.

Notre Dame didn't let it happen, showing it belong right away, and fighting off the Huskies, who made a miraculous comeback just to reach overtime, erasing a five-point deficit with 21.3 seconds remaining in regulation. Muffet McGraw's squad will be looking for its second national championship to go with the one the Irish won in 2001. She worked her way back to play a key role in the Irish's win over Villanova in the second round and then was a big factor in beating OR to get the Irish to the Final Four.

The Huskies feature two players, Gabby Williams and Katie Lou Samuelson, who were named finalists for the Naismith Award, which is awarded to the sport's best player.

McCowan broke the Final Four single-game rebounding mark set by Charlotte Smith of North Carolina in 1994 when the 6-foot-7 center grabbed her 24th.

UCONN AthleticsUCONN Players all smiles advancing to the Final Four. "They didn't ever quit or question whether or not we could do it".

UConn, Notre Dame ready to resume rivalry