It’s hard to even fully account for what happened at the end of regulation between Notre Dame and UConn, but a wild sequence ended with Notre Dame hitting a big shot and UConn senior Tiffany Hayes passing the ball as time expired. In overtime, UConn just looked deflated while Notre Dame continued to execute.
But it was UConn’s inability to control the ball under 5 minutes in the regulation that made the difference in Notre Dame’s 83-75 win.
I said in our preview of this game that turnovers might be the X-factor in this game and it turns out they were probably the defining feature down the stretch. UConn finished the game with 21 turnovers to Notre Dame’s 16, many of which came in the first half. Similar to past games, Hayes and sophomore point guard Bria Hartley were the biggest culprits with (a team-high) 6 and 5 turnovers respectively.
A major turning point in the game was Stefanie Dolson picking up her fourth foul early in the second half and being forced to sit after having a dominant 12-point first half. Dolson eventually returned to the game and finished with 20 points, 9 rebounds, and 4 blocks but UConn’s offense looked completely out of sync without their 6-foot-5 center taking up space in the middle.
Offensive rebounding played a major role in this game as well in the first half when Notre Dame struggled to find a rhythm. Notre Dame finished had a 10-4 offensive rebounding advantage in the first half and finished with a 17-11 margin. As has happened in the first two games between these two teams, it took a Notre Dame guard having an exemplary game to win the rebounding battle: Natalie Novosel had a game-high 5 offensive rebounds and total of 7 to go with her team-high 20 points.
The game was an underwhelming end to UConn senior Tiffany Hayes’ career, who had 10 points on 4-for-11 shooting in addition to her 6 turnovers. The play at the end of the regulation is probably one the entire team will replay in their minds for some time, but they couldn’t afford to lose both the rebounding and turnover battle and expect to win this game.
That was one of the more entertaining games this season with one of the wilder Final Four finishes in recent memory and as such a great showcase for women’s basketball.