Irish women fall to rival UConn in Top-2 showdown
SOUTH BEND, Ind. - Each time Notre Dame and UConn meet on the hardwood, its expected that both teams will field some of the best talent in the entire country.
That was certainly the case as the undefeated and top-ranked Irish hosted second-ranked Huskies in a rematch of the Final Four thriller in March.
This time UConn got its revenge, handing Notre Dame a 89-71 loss -- the first for the Irish since the ACC Tournament title game against Louisville before their national championship run.
"I was really disappointed to see the veterans that we have not rise to the occasion," said Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw. "I think we're a better team than we showed. It's going to allow us to look at things a little more objectively and to move on and move forward from here."
Though it was back-and-forth early, the Irish struggled to contain Huskies freshman Christyn Williams. She tallied 16 first-quarter points on her way to a game-high 28. Notre Dame only got as close as two in the third quarter, but UConn pulled away in the end.
"About what you'd expect from two really good teams," said UConn's Geno Auriemma. "Pretty close the whole way. It seemed like every time we needed a bucket, we got one. Every time they'd make a run, we got something going."
Though the Irish felt they played below their own standards, they admitted a lack of poise contributed to the late Connecticut run.
Arike Ogunbowale, who notched a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds, was assessed a technical foul in the fourth quarter after a short interaction with Auriemma.
To Muffet McGraw, her team's lack of poise was one of the biggest disappointments.— Matt Randall (@mattrandall_) December 3, 2018
I've seen lots of fans wondering what happened between Arike and Geno Auriemma. See it here, with comments from both. pic.twitter.com/noZx6wjjCz
"I think we fed right into what they wanted," Ogunbowale said after the game. "[Auriemma] baited a lot of us and we lost our poise. As seniors and leaders of this team, we can't let that happen."
In the end, Notre Dame drops to 7-1 on the season and likely out of the top ranking. But while the loss stings, the Irish have plenty to focus on going forward. They'll have time to grow as well, with only two games in the next two weeks.
They'll next play Toledo on Saturday, then Binghamton eight days later on the following Sunday.