ST. LOUIS (AP) Notre Dame pulled off yet another comeback, this one for the biggest prize of all.
The Irish clawed and scratched their way back from deficits time after time and beat Purdue 68-66 on Ruth Riley”s two free throws with 5.8 seconds left to win their first national championship.
Notre Dame trailed by 12 points in the first half and was down 66-64 with a little more than a minute to play when Riley, the team”s unanimous All-American and national player of the year, came through.
“I can”t even describe it,” Riley said. “This is the only thing I wanted. To be able to share this with my teammates is unbelievable. We worked so hard that it was fitting to end the season this way.”
It ended the way it did in large measure because of Riley.
First, she scored in the lane to tie it at 66 with 1:01 remaining. Then, she rebounded a miss by Purdue”s Shereka Wright, enabling the Irish to set up a late shot.
They got the ball to Riley who else? and she was fouled by Wright. She made the first throw, returned to the line after a Purdue timeout and calmly made the second.
“It”s definitely euphoria,” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. “I don”t know when I”ve been this excited. What can you saw about Ruth Riley? What clutch on the free throw line, to make both of those free throws!”
It still wasn”t over because the Boilermakers (31-7) had the last shot. But All-American, Katie Douglas, missed an 18-foot shot at the buzzer.