KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Abi Olajuwon slowed while running off the Sprint Center court, raised her arms in the air and waved to her adoring fans. It was her curtain call.
The Sooner center had a night to remember Sunday on the biggest stage of her career. OU defeated Notre Dame 77-72 in overtime and advanced to the women’s Elite Eight. While Nyeshia Stevenson scored the game-winning points in overtime, the Sooners wouldn’t have gotten to the extra frame without Olajuwon. "She just deserved this stage,” Sooner coach Sherri Coale said, "and she deserved that performance.” Olajuwon scored 20 points and grabbed 14 rebounds. While only the sixth double-double of her career, it was her second in this NCAA Tournament. "At the end of the day, every game could be your last,” Olajuwon said. "Instead of being stressed out about the tournament or nervous about the tournament ... I’ve just enjoyed having more time with my teammates, having another opportunity to play.” Olajuwon made sure the Sooners got that next opportunity with her performance Sunday. She was 9 of 13 from the field, going strong to the basket and using a variety of moves to score. "I thought Olajuwon played really well,” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. "I was disappointed in our post that we didn’t do a better job on her.” The Fighting Irish threw a variety of post players at Olajuwon. They used stout 6-foot-4 Erica Williamson. They used lanky 6-foot-2 Devereaux Peters. They used athletic 6-1 Becca Bruszewski. "But really, we were 0 for 3 in guarding her,” McGraw said. "She just really outplayed us.” Olajuwon built on what has already been an impressive tournament. She scored 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting against South Dakota State in the first round and 19 points on 8-of-12 shooting against Arkansas-Little Rock in the second round. Sunday, she also tied a career-high with 14 rebounds, grabbing seven offensive rebounds and falling short of Notre Dame’s team total for offensive rebounds by only one. "I think a big part of her performance came from how well she played in the first and second rounds,” Coale said.