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Abi Olajuwon's biggest game helps OU advance past Notre Dame in overtime

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Oklahoma beats second-seeded Notre Dame 77-72 in overtime to reach Kansas City Regional final. The Sooners will play in the Kansas City regional final on Tuesday. OU will face the winner of Sunday's late game between Nebraska and Kentucky.
By Jenni Carlson Modified: March 29, 2010 at 4:07 am •  Published: March 29, 2010

/> "I think a big part of her performance came from how well she played in the first and second rounds,” Coale said. "It’s that confidence that just continues to build.

"Every time Notre Dame scored, Abi was our answer.”

While Olajuwon’s 20 points fell short of her career high — that came earlier this season when she scored 25 points against Cal State-Fullerton — she has never had a bigger game. She was a reserve, after all, these past three seasons. She was on the bench in every big game.

Olajuwon came to OU a year after Courtney and Ashley Paris arrived on campus. She knew she’d have to sit the bench. She knew she’d have to wait her turn.

It was her own version of one and done.

"She had to sit and watch,” Sooner senior Amanda Thompson said. "I feel like she took notes, and it’s paying off.”

Olajuwon not only took notes but also took action.

This past summer, she worked to make the most of her senior season. She spent hours on the StairMaster and in the weight room. She lost about 30 pounds and got her body into shape for the season.

"There were times when she didn’t want to do it,” Thompson said. "But she knew it would pay off.

"This is what it pays off for.”

Sunday night was what Olajuwon dreamed about during the offseason.

"Honestly, it’s what I thought about every time I didn’t want to do cardio in the summer and every time I wanted to eat something that was going to affect my team,” Olajuwon said. "These were the moments that I wanted to know that I was going to be ready and prepared for.”

She was, and now, Olajuwon and the Sooners are one step from the Women’s Final Four.

"You just want to do everything in your power,” she said, "to get your team there.”