ND Women’s Basketball
Notre Dame nominated in two categories at ESPY Awards
Observer Sports Staff | Friday, June 21, 2019
This report was updated June 23 at 2:40 a.m.
The Notre Dame women‘s basketball team was announced on Wednesday as a finalist for two awards at the annual ESPY Awards on July 10. The Irish were one of three nominees in the category of “Best Game“ for their come-from-behind win over UConn at the Final Four on April 5. Meanwhile, former Notre Dame guard Arike Ogunbowale will look to defend her title in the category “Best Play,“ nominated for a behind-the-back assist against NC State.
The awards show is an annual event televised by ABC honoring important individuals and moments in the sports world. Started in 1993, this year‘s event will be held on July 10 at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles, California. Most winners are chosen based on fan voting, though some are decided ahead of time by prominent members of the sports world.
Joining the Final Four nomination are two football matchups — Texas A&M‘s 74-72 seven-overtime win against LSU and the Los Angeles Rams three-point win over the Kansas City Chiefs.
This is the second consecutive season that Notre Dame women’s basketball has been up for an ESPY. In 2017, the Irish were nominated for “Best Moment” for defeating Mississippi State in the national championship and Arike Ogunbowale won the ESPY for “Best Play” for hitting a 3-point buzzer beater — her second game-winner of the Final Four after hitting one to defeat UConn in overtime — to win the national championship against Mississippi State.
In this year’s Final Four matchup between Notre Dame and Connecticut, just as in 2017, the Irish looked to avenge a regular season loss to the Huskies. The game featured 26 lead changes and it took a rally by the Irish in the fourth quarter to come back and win the game.
After the Irish started out slow, allowing UConn to gain a 13-4 lead behind an 11-0 run, Jessica Shepard scored 10 points in the second quarter, including a solo 8-0 run, to help keep the Irish in what became a neck-and-neck game. The Huskies would hit a buzzer beating jumper to end the half and take a 30-29 lead into the locker room.
In the third period the game remained contested with the Irish building a four-point lead. However, Huskies senior forward Katie Lou Samuelson hit two 3-pointers and was fouled on a third, making all three free throws to give the Huskies a 54-52 lead heading into the final quarter.
Huskies freshman guard Christyn Williams hit a 3-pointer right out of the gate to build a five-point lead. Ogunbowale answered with a triple of her own, but a 3-pointer by Samuelson and a layup by Williams contributed to a 7-0 run to go up 64-55 with 7:52 left.
Notre Dame would not go quietly though, as junior guard Jackie Young hit a 3-pointer of her own, graduate student forward Brianna Turner hit two free throws to cut the lead to four once more. Huskies senior forward Napheesa Collier stretched the lead back to five, but Ogunbowale and Irish senior guard Marina Mabrey hit back-to-back shots from beyond the arc to tie the game.
The lead changed hands even further before Shepard hit a jumper to put the Irish up 74-73 for the final lead change of the game. Turner had a clutch block to seal the game as the Irish advanced to the national championship for the second year in a row and head coach Muffet McGraw broke out in dance on the court.
The game featured notable individual performances by multiple players with Turner, Shepard and Mabrey all recording double-doubles. Four of the Huskies starters and all five starters for the Irish scored in double figures while Arike Ogunbowale scored 14 of her game-high 23 points in the final stanza.
While the team award will be decided between the field of three, the award for “Best Play“ is based on a bracket determined by fan votes. Returning to the field this year, Ogunbowale is currently seeded no. 13 out of 16 options, facing off against fourth-seeded Wayne Rooney‘s stoppage time heroics for D.C. United on Aug. 12.
Nearly halfway through the first quarter of Notre Dame‘s matchup against the Wolfpack on Feb. 18, Turner blocked a layup that ended up in the hands of Young. Young hit Ogunbowale, who was streaking down the baseline and in an effort to keep it from going out of bounds delivered a behind-the-back pass directly into the arms of Turner, who knocked down the and-1 from the right block. This play eventually led to a 23-point road victory for the Irish.
Winners of both awards will be announced at the annual ESPY Awards, which will air on July 10 on ABC at 9 p.m.