If Notre Dame's path to the Final Four has been full of knee-twisting potholes, the Huskies arrive at the same place healthy, strong and eager to atone for last season's surprising loss.
The No. 1 Bulldogs (36-1) will play in their second straight national semifinal at 7 p.m. ET Friday, taking on a fellow top seed in the Louisville Cardinals (36-2).
Mississippi State plays superb defense and makes your life hard to get open. Jazmine Jones added 15 in a game in which the lead changed 15 times. The Irish won seven times, twice knocking UConn out of the Final Four. "And going in, you never know who they're going to be", Auriemma said. "I think it stings a little more when you have it happen after you experience that part of it". From the early 1970s to the late 1980s, women's basketball at UConn was, at best, an afterthought.
For the UConn women's team, it is the second straight year they have gone undefeated only to lose in the semi-final.
UConn has won the five meetings since, including a 80-71 victory on December 3 this season.
Notre Dame took the lead in overtime, but again, sophomore Crystal Dangerfield hit a deep three to tie the game.
"I practice this all the time", Ogunbowale said. "Where we went wrong, where we went right". I thought we competed, we played our hearts out. After a Notre Dame turnover, UConn had three seconds to work with, and Gabby Williams' couldn't get a turnaround shot to go at the buzzer.
"You come to CT, and you look up on those walls when you come to our practice facility, and you look around and you go, 'All right, well, I'm going to be here four years". It was an incredible continuation of a journey that has tested the Irish greatly during a season where they've lost multiple players to season-ending injuries.
"You know, one or two players really make the difference at this time of the year". And winning is hard work. It looked as if Notre Dame had the game under control, boasting a five-point lead in the final 20 seconds of regulation. But UConn is the most dominant force in college basketball for a reason, and they found a way to get it done and send the game to overtime.
A'ja Wilson of SC won the Ann Meyers Drysdale Award as the National Player of the Year. She's the third Huskies player to win it, joining Williams (2017) and Stefanie Dolson (2014). Notre Dame doesn't have that problem.
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.
"I'm happy for Vic, he's a good friend, " Louisville coach Jeff Walz said. We made some plays back. "She does so many things".
The Bulldogs ended UConn's 111-game winning streak past year before losing to SC in the title game. She's got 14 points and 13 rebounds, including seven offensive rebounds.
Wilson received 22 votes from 32-member national media panel.
The No. 1 Mississippi State Bulldogs advanced to the Women's Final Four Friday, beating the Louisville Cardinals 73-63.