Last night’s ND v. UConn game had more turnovers than a bakery, worse defense than the Ardennes Forest in 1940 and the overall feel of two talented teams who have played each other so many times and know each other so well that neither wanted to win for fear of causing hurt feelings. Still, in the end, ND pulled out a victory that was as exciting as any finish could be. When it matter, Mallory mattered. Diggins dominated. And Notre Dame is one tough Baylor squad away from a championship.
There’s a lot we could pull apart and analyze under the old microscope and the meatiest bits would be ND’s poor shot-selection early and their inability to stop Connecticut’s big. Actually, the Irish really didn’t stop anyone on UConn, but Stefanie Dolson (6’5″) gave ND fits throughout the game. This does not bode well for Tuesday’s tangle with Baylor and all 6’8″ of Brittney Griner. Unless ND were purposefully playing the ol’ defense as a clever tactical ploy.
In the interest of full disclosure, I wasn’t at the game last night. I watched it at an official gamewatch in the Crescent City, and I have to say that we seemed to generate as much or more noise than the neon green corner at the Nuggets’ arena. Spectacular woodwork aside, there wasn’t much to like from the surroundings. The players were passionate on both sides, but I didn’t get any sense that the joint was rocking, unlike the Superdome, which I could almost hear and I am rather certain could actually see shaking. Unless that was the vodka. Or our geologically fragile substrate.
Obviously, the game was won in overtime. You can say that about every game that gets into overtime, I guess, but the final score of 83-75 in no way reflects how close the two teams played it throughout. If it weren’t for that glorious flurry of three-pointers at the end and Diggs’ terrific defensive play, I could just as easily be writing a bitter, disheartened missive about missed-opportunities and what could have been for the ladies. We should have won it in regulation, to be fair.
But oh, Ms. Brittany Mallory. When ND needed her to make a shot, she came up big. Twice. Making it all the more special was the fact that she hadn’t exactly been lighting up the box scores to that point. Coach McGraw’s faith in her graduated player paid off handsomely.
Tuesday’s matchup is going to be epic, with all the storylines a fan could want. This is ND’s second shot at glory. Win, and they erase last year’s pain. Lose, and the hurt just gets that much more profound. Win, and Skylar Diggins mounts the ultimate trophy on her wall: a championship. Lose, and Baylor goes 40-0. It doesn’t get any bigger than Tuesday.