"I could not be more proud of these kids, just a relentless, gutsy effort," said OU head coach Sherri Coale. "The way we've won a bunch of games this year, [I'm] just so proud of player after player. I could talk about each one over and over."
It was senior forward Nyeshia Stevenson's corner pocket three with six seconds remaining in the extra period that ultimately clinched it, a different result from a similar situation two years ago against the Irish.
"I mean, I played it back in my head before we played Notre Dame tonight, about how much I ran from it in my sophomore year," Stevenson said. "I was like, you know what, I'm not going to do this to my team, and I want to play some more. So I just said, ‘Hey, when the clock is running down, if you're not going to take it, who is?' So I just jumped up and shot it."
That turned out to be the difference after OU finally broke a 70-70 tie in the final minute of overtime.
Notre Dame jumped out to an early 9-6 lead as it converted four of its first five field goal attempts.
But OU used an 8-2 run to take a three-point lead of its own at 14-11 just more than five minutes into the contest.
And that's how the first half went, with both teams making mini runs and neither team leading by more than five until the waning moments in the first frame when OU junior guard Danielle Robinson converted a pair of free throws for a 36-30 advantage.
The Irish hit a layup before the half, and the Sooners led 36-32 at intermission, capping off a first half that was virtually even in many categories.
Each team had seven points off turnovers, three second chance points and two bench points.
"One team would score, the other team would answer with a basket, another basket," Coale said. "[It was] just a high quality basketball game."
After Notre Dame scored four of the first six points in the second half, it was the Sooners that surged on a 10-2 run to jump out to a 48-40 lead with 12:10 remaining.
But the Irish had an answer in the form of a 10-1 run of their own to retake the lead at 50-49, the first time they had been on top since the 5:05 mark in the first half when they led 25-24.
"Her presence on the court is unbelievable," Thompson said about Olajuwon. "Our point differentiation is positive when she's on the floor. It's just a whole different game."
When OU moved its advantage back out to six with 4:32 left, the Irish rallied with a 12-6 run to end regulation, including freshman Skylar Diggins' game-tying long ball with 32 seconds left.
Olajuwon led the Sooners with 21 points on 9-for-13 shooting to go along with 14 boards.
"You know, she just deserved this stage," Coale said. "And she deserved that performance, and every time Notre Dame scored, Abi was our answer. When we were grinding it out around the 10 minute mark, she just was undaunted in the post. I loved her demeanor. I loved her focus. I loved her rebounding. I just thought it was fantastic and so appropriate for her."
Senior forward Nyeshia Stevenson added 20.
Notre Dame's Melissa Lechlitner led all scorers with 22 points on 10-for-14 shooting from the field.