Basketball world still buzzing about Ogunbowale's impact on women's game

Al Lesar
Special To The Tribune

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Three months after Notre Dame’s Arike Ogunbowale made history by making back-to-back game-winning shots in the Final Four, she’s still the talk of the women’s college basketball world.

The rising senior hit last-second shots to beat Connecticut in overtime and then Mississippi State to win the national title and capture the attention of the country beyond the realm of sports. Ogunbowale’s heroics earned her an appearance on TV’s “Dancing with the Stars,” as well as a guest appearance on “Ellen.”

They were still buzzing this weekend at the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Former University of Tennessee standout Chamique Holdsclaw and longtime Lady Vols assistant coach Mickie DeMoss — two of the honorees — marveled at the accomplishments and the impact those finishes could have on the future of the game.

“I saw that,” Holdsclaw said of the TV gigs. “(Ogunbowale) deserved that. If she doesn’t win the ESPY (ESPN’s awards) this year for the most exciting play, I’m going to crack my television set.

“It’s exciting. It’s great to see (women’s college basketball’s) popularity come back. It was great to see someone go out there and do something so amazing. She hit two back-to-back! That’s amazing! We were watching it again today. It’s unheard of.

“Then, she goes on ‘Dancing with the Stars.’ It’s great.”

Would Holdsclaw have danced?

“Nah, that would have exposed my lack of rhythm,” she said with a laugh.

DeMoss was able to give a big-picture perspective.

“I’m loving it,” she said. “I’ve seen every Final Four. Hands down, in my opinion, it was the best Final Four in the history of the game. To have two clutch shots. That says a lot.

“It’s going to give women’s basketball a lot of recognition. If I’m not a women’s basketball fan, and I tuned into those games, I’d be like, ‘I think I’m going to start watching this.’

“There were two great semifinals. It got to the championship game, ‘There’s no way it can be as exciting as those semifinal games.’

“Then it was, ‘All right, this is a great game.’ It was one of those games that you didn’t want it to end. The final was just as exciting.

“It was a high level of play. I’m excited for the future of women’s basketball.”

Notre Dame’s Arike Ogunbowale (24) cuts down the nets after Notre Dame beat Mississippi State inthe NCAA Women’s Tournament National Championship game, April 1 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio.