Notre Dame point guard Marina Mabrey tried to stifle a yawn before answering a question Saturday, but insisted there would be no emotional hangover from a 91-89 overtime victory over top-ranked Connecticut in a women’s Final Four semifinal.
The team was at Nationwide Arena for more questions from the media less than 12 hours after the game. This was only a week after winning a regional in Spokane, Washington, more than 1,900 miles from campus.
“I feel like I just stopped at the gas station,’’ Mabrey said. “I feel like our motor — knock on wood — is just nonstop. Our team is so motivated, determined. We have a team of competitors. We have a joke that, ‘If you weren’t on my team I’d just hate you because you are so annoying.’ When you have (competitive) players like that, you are not going down without a fight.’’
So how late did Mabrey stay up after the game against the Huskies?
“We got back to the hotel at 1 o’clock and I talked with my really big family for an hour,’’ she said. “They were just so excited. We were laughing. Then my mom got really tired and it was party over. I got to sleep around 4. Melatonin really helped.’’
It was a relief as much as joy when the Irish made the Final Four for the first time since 2015. Older sister Michaela Mabrey, a shooting guard, played in two of them for the Irish.
“Even just watching my sister play, she would say, ‘Oh, yeah, we always go to the Final Four. We have to go to the Final Four,’ ’’ Mabrey said. “I remember going to the Sweet 16 as a freshman and losing and saying, ‘Oh, wow, we’re the worst team ever.’ The history of our team motivates us.’’
If anyone knew what Arike Ogunbowale felt like Friday, it was Morgan William. One year after William led Mississippi State to the national championship game with a buzzer-beater against UConn, Ogunbowale likewise hit a jumper with a second remaining against the Huskies to send Notre Dame to the title game.
Just don’t try to compare the two shots.
“She made a shot,” William said Saturday. “I hit a shot at the buzzer, too. I won’t compare those shots. They’re both great in their own way. I know we won by one. I mean, they had a 111-game winning streak. We got beat by 60 the year before.
“For us to hit that shot and beat them, those just don’t compare.”
After hitting her winning shot, Ogunbowale credited Lakers star Kobe Bryant for her mentality when taking the jumper to sink the Huskies. By a twist of fate, Bryant was in the crowd with his family and decked out in UConn gear.
Before the night was over, Bryant had tweeted Ogunbowale to congratulate her. It added an exclamation point for an unforgettable night for Ogunbowale, who grew up cheering for Bryant and wears No. 24 in homage to him.
“That’s crazy,” she said. “I watched his highlights all the time. That’s literally my favorite player. I definitely have Kobe hats, Kobe T-shirts, Lakers socks.”
Mississippi State’s Teaira McCowan’s 25 rebounds against Louisville were the most in a Final Four game, and her 92 total in this year’s tournament are also a record.
Although she’s 6 feet 7, McCowan said those kinds of numbers are the result of more than just genetics.
“I like to go rebound because not too many people like to go rebound,” she said. “It’s an energy thing when it comes to rebounding. I never give up.”