Napheesa Collier’s UConn career ends in loss to Notre Dame in national semifinal

TAMPA, FLORIDA - APRIL 05: Brianna Turner #11 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish grabs the rebound from Napheesa Collier #24 of the UConn Huskies during the fourth quarter in the semifinals of the 2019 NCAA Women's Final Four at Amalie Arena on April 05, 2019 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

TAMPA, Fla. — Arike Ogunbowale scored 23 points and led Notre Dame’s rally from a nine-point deficit in the fourth quarter as the defending champion Irish beat UConn 81-76 Friday night to return to the NCAA women’s basketball championship game.

The Irish will face Baylor on Sunday night, trying to become the fourth school to win consecutive championships – UConn, Tennessee and Southern California have done it. Notre Dame Coach Muffet McGraw danced a little jig at midcourt after this comeback victory.

Baylor beat Oregon 72-67 in the first semifinal, setting up a rematch of the 2012 national championship game won by Baylor, 80-61.

This game between the Huskies and the Irish was a rematch of last season’s Final Four classic that Notre Dame won on a last-second shot by Ogunbowale. This one – the latest chapter in the greatest rivalry in women’s basketball over the past decade – provided a fitting encore.

Notre Dame (35-3) trailed 64-55 early in the fourth quarter before scoring 13 of the next 16 to take a 68-66 lead on Ogunbowale’s short jumper with 3:56 left. The teams then traded the lead five times over the next few minutes, with Jessica Shepard hitting a jumper from the foul line with 1:27 left to put the Irish ahead, 75-74.

Katie Lou Samuelson scored 20 points for the Huskies (35-3). Incarnate Word graduate Napheesa Collier, playing in her final college game, finished with 15 points, 13 rebounds and 4 blocks for UConn. An All-American power forward, Collier is expected to be a high selection in next week’s WNBA Draft.

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