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One Win Away From Championship Glory

Apr 2, 2012, 12:29 AM EDT

Photo by Matt Cashore/University of Notre Dame

It wasn’t always a pretty game. The Irish shot 40.3% from the field (Seven points below their season average). The teams combined for 37 turnovers, which at times, felt more like 67.

But style points mean nothing at this point in the season.

With a thrilling 83-75 overtime victory against Connecticut, the Notre Dame women’s basketball team is one win away from it second national championship, and it’s due in large part to hustle and heart.

A late rebound and putback from Natalie Novosel, a block from Skylar Diggins (yes, a block from the 5’9″ Irish point guard) and a pair of key three-pointers in overtime from Brittany Mallory have head coach Muffet McGraw’s team right where they wanted (and expected) to be on April 2, 2012 – in position to play for a title.

Watching tonight’s game, reading fans’ tweets and friends’ Facebook statuses, and now, checking out ‘One Shining Moment’ montages on YouTube as I write this, reminds me there’s nothing quite like college basketball.

The emotion and excitement of March Madness is unparalleled. The refuse-to-lose mentality of Diggins, the leadership of Novosel, the clutch shooting of Mallory, and the character of this Fighting Irish team make us proud to say we’re all a part of the same Notre Dame family.

March demonstrates how our connection to one another and to Notre Dame is strengthened through sports. At the arena, in a sports bar, or watching from our couch, we develop an emotional attachment to the teams and the games. Alum, student or fan, we feel as though we’ve been along for the journey.

In this year’s tournaments, we have seen both the highest of highs – the triumph of victory (tonight) – and the lowest of lows – the heartbreak of defeat (the men’s game vs. Xavier). As the teams fight back tears, we share their sorrow. And as the teams celebrate, we experience the same pure, unadulterated joy.

Tonight was a memorable night for the Fighting Irish, the fans in Denver, and those watching, blogging, tweeting and Facebooking across the world.

There is, however, still work to be done. Notre Dame will return to the court on Tuesday night at 8:30 pm ET when it takes on 39-0 Baylor in the national championship game.

Remember to follow @NotreDameWBB on Twitter and check out the Irish at for all the updates from the Mile High City.

Get some rest over the next 40 hours or so, and clear your schedule for Tuesday night. The table is set for an historic evening in the Rocky Mountains.

Five down, one to go…

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