March 25, 2011
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DAYTON, Ohio (AP) - Notre Dame and Oklahoma have gone overtime to develop their NCAA tournament rivalry.
Two games, two overtimes, a split decision. There's a lot of drama whenever they play with everything on the line. And the NCAA selection committee has set them up to do it again.
The second-seeded Fighting Irish (28-7) play the Sooners (23-11) in a regional semifinal on Saturday. It'll be the third time in the last four years that they've played in the tournament, with their previous games setting a standard for fantastic finishes.
"I think the committee likes good television," Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said Friday. "This could be one of those games."
Sure could. Both teams like to push the pace and pile up points. Both teams are on a tear. And both teams remember how their last two tournament games went.
The first came in 2008, when they played a second-round game in West Lafayette, Ind. The Fighting Irish overcame a five-point deficit and won in overtime 79-75, with Charel Allen scoring 35 points to lead the comeback.
"I forget the girl's name, but she ended up having 35 points for Notre Dame and I was like, 'Wow, welcome to college basketball, welcome to the NCAA tournament," said Oklahoma guard Danielle Robinson, who was a freshman at the time. "It's been back-and-forth with them."
The rematch came last year in Kansas City, where Oklahoma got its fourth overtime win of the season - a school record - and beat the second-seeded Fighting Irish 77-72 in a pulsating regional semifinal. Nyeshia Stevenson made a tiebreaking 3 with 4.4 seconds left in overtime to decide it.
"It's a little bit of a rivalry between us," Notre Dame center Brittany Mallory said. "I think we are all ready for it to be a great game."
It has the ingredients.
Notre Dame is a No. 2 seed again, known for its fast-scoring offense. The Fighting Irish have won nine games by at least 35 points - a school record - and scored at least 90 points eight times this season, also a school record. Once they get a rebound or steal, they get moving.
Sixth-seeded Oklahoma likes to push the pace, too, led by its guard tandem of Robinson (18.4 points per game) and freshman Aaryn Ellenberg (16.4 points). The Sooners lost four of their last six in the regular season, but have gotten the offense rolling in the NCAA tournament with an 86-72 win over James Madison and 88-83 victory over Miami.
"I don't think we'll need the shot clock," McGraw said. "Just give the guy a break tomorrow. I think it's going to be an up-tempo game. Both teams want to score quickly. Both teams are going to get a lot of shots up."
If it comes down to a final fling, Oklahoma is ready.
Before every practice, the Sooners take turns shooting from midcourt. Robinson rarely misses.
"Danielle always shoots last, and I'll bet she makes nine out of 10," guard Whitney Hand said. "So if the game comes down to a half-court shot, I'm putting my money on us."