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Modern memorable moments that have catapulted the women’s game

In recent years, college women’s basketball has divided its games into quarters instead of halves, and Division I adopted a new Women’s Final Four schedule — changes intended to spur excitement in the sport. But in many ways, the game has sparked new interest on its own during that time, simply by providing historic accomplishments and a little mainstream fun.

Dominant Dogs

Geno credit: NCAA Photos archive

UConn’s epic win streak of 111 games gave the team a dynasty deserving a spot alongside UCLA’s run of 88 consecutive victories on the men’s side. But the dominance the Huskies showed during the streak that extended from 2014 to 2017 may stand alone. Only three games were won by fewer than 10 points, 31 victories came against ranked opponents, and nine games were won by 60 or more points. Their back-to-back national titles during the streak also made UConn the first program in Division I women’s basketball history to win four consecutive championships. 

End of a Dynasty

Mississippi state credit: NCAA Photos archive

Every dynasty eventually is conquered. UConn’s loss to Mississippi State in the 2017 national semifinals on a dramatic buzzer-beater by Morgan William made national darlings of the Bulldogs with a television audience that outdrew two NBA games that night and shattered ESPN’s online streaming records for the event. Even UConn coach Geno Auriemma was seen smiling in the chaos that followed the shot, as if sensing, even in defeat, how big the moment was for the game.

The Best for Last

Kelsey Plum credit: Scott Eklund / University of Washington

Washington senior Kelsey Plum, in her final regular-season game in 2017, needed 54 points to surpass Jackie Stiles’ NCAA scoring record. She did better, hitting six 3-pointers and sinking 13 of 17 shots inside the arc en route to 57 points in a victory over Utah. Some sports pundits have called hers the finest performance in college basketball — for either gender — in the past decade. Plum’s 3,527 career points is more than just a women’s record, though. It’s also the second-most career points scored in Division I basketball, men or women, trailing only LSU’s “Pistol” Pete Maravich.

Back-to-Back Buzzer-Beaters

Notre Dame credit: Justin Tafoya / NCAA Photos

It’s hard to imagine a more dramatic championship in any sport, or for a single player. In the 2018 national semifinals, Notre Dame’s Arike Ogunbowale sank a baseline jumper in the final seconds of overtime to stun top-seeded UConn — the second consecutive year the Huskies had lost a semifinal game in its final seconds. Then, in the championship contest, the Irish rallied from a 15-point deficit before Ogunbowale hit a 3-pointer with 0.1 second remaining to topple Mississippi State 61-58 and take the title.

Another Big Dance

Arike Ogunbowale. credit: Phil McCarten / AP Images

Those big shots launched Ogunbowale into pop-culture stardom. She appeared on “The Ellen Show,” where former Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant presented her with an autographed jersey. She also won the “Best Play” ESPY for her title-clinching shot. She then took her fleet feet into pop’s mainstream: A spot on an all-athlete edition of “Dancing With the Stars,” where she appeared with other champions: former UCLA and Lakers star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Olympic softball gold medalist Jennie Finch and World Series champion
Johnny Damon.

About Champion

Champion magazine goes behind the headlines and beyond the scoreboards to celebrate the unique connection between Americans and college sports. Champion is published by the NCAA.