Arike Ogunbowale nailed a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from the corner last year versus Mississippi State to win Notre Dame its 2nd-ever NCAA Championship. Both have come under the stewardship of head coach Muffet McGraw, who took over the Fighting Irish program in 1987 after 5-year career leading Lehigh.
Overall, McGraw is 918-274 in her career. She has a chance Friday night against perennial power UConn (9 p.m. EST, ESPN2) to advance to the NCAA final and potentially seize a 3rd title. Notre Dame would face the winner of Baylor and Oregon on Sunday night.
Let’s take a look at the pair of championships McGraw and the Fighting Irish have already won.
2001 NCAA Championship
In McGraw’s first-ever appearance in the national championship game, Notre Dame topped in-state rival Purdue 68-66 on April 1, 2001 in St. Louis.
The Irish trailed by 12 points in the first half and were down 66-64 with a little more than a minute to play when Ruth Riley, the team’s unanimous All-American and national player of the year, hit a layup and a pair of free throws for the final margin.
“It’s definitely euphoria,” coach Muffet McGraw said to the AP. “It’s the greatest moment in our basketball history at Notre Dame.
“I don’t know when I’ve been this excited. What can you say about Ruth Riley? What clutch on the free throw line, to make both of those free throws!”
On the year, Notre Dame finished 34-2 and tied atop the Big East alongside UConn, who lost to the Irish by 15 in the Final Four two days before.
Riley averaged 18.7 points and 7.8 rebounds in her senior season. She ended up getting drafted No. 5 overall in the 2001 WNBA Draft by the Miami Sol.
Over a 13-year career, she saw stints with the Sol, Detroit Shock, San Antonio Silver Stars, Chicago Sky and Atlanta Dream. The 6-foot-5, 185-pounder won the WNBA Finals MVP in 2003 by helping the Shock win the title over Lisa Leslie and the Los Angeles Sparks.
2018 NCAA Championship
In the 17 seasons in between McGraw’s first and second titles, Notre Dame reached 4 championship games. The losses came to Texas A&M (2011), Baylor (2012) and UConn twice (2014, 2015).
The difference in 2018 was Ogunbowale. She first nailed a game-winner in the national semifinal over the Huskies. She tallied 27 points to fuel the 91-89 victory.
Charlie Creme of ESPN described her performance in the title game as “rough” before the legendary game-winner over Victoria Vivens.
It was a rough night for the junior, who finished 6-of-21 from the field and was 1-of-10 in a bad first half for Notre Dame, which trailed 30-17 at the break.
Ogunbowale finished with 18 points, 16 in the second half, and her relentless driving to the basket became the Irish’s offense in the second half. Ogunbowale’s title-winning shot was just Notre Dame’s second made 3-pointer of the game.
The 5-foot-8 guard averaged 20.3 points and 2.7 assists per game in 2018. This season, those numbers have bumped up to 21.4 points and 4 assists per contest.
On the season, McGraw’s crew finished 35-3 and shared the ACC regular-season championship with Louisville, who lost in overtime in the Final Four to Mississippi State.