Baylor Beats Notre Dame To Win NCAA Women's Basketball Championship

Virginia Santiago
April 10, 2019

Baylor Bears coach Kim Mulkey was emotional upon celebrating her third national championship win as a head coach.

Baylor (37-1) led by as many as 17, but after a leg injury to Bears star forward Lauren Cox in the third quarter, the Irish (35-4) surged back to take the lead with just over three minutes left.

Baylor gave up a double-digit lead but hung on in the final minutes to win the NCAA women's title game against defending champs Notre Dame by a single point Sunday night in Tampa, Fla.

"Guys, that wasn't a fluke out there", Mulkey said. The old school won a national championship, whatever that means. And I just know she's hurt because that kid would have gotten. I still couldn't. It's not a celebration when you're supposed to win, and you win by 20.

It was a rematch seven years in the making as No. 1 Baylor and No. 1 Notre Dame squared off in the national championship for the first time since 2011-12. Mulkey has three, placing her behind Geno Auriemma (11) and Pat Summitt (8).

That completed a game that followed a familiar script for the Irish in their previous tournament contests in which they fell behind only to finish strong. And then she stuffed Marina Mabrey's attempt on the other end. But you know what? He blessed these kids, they fought through it. NaLyssa Smith, Kalani Brown, Chloe Jackson, I can name them all. "We controlled that game from the start till the time she went off the floor". They foul out, they foul out, and then I'm ripped to shreds by y'all because I didn't sub. We're going to still win this basketball game. We had to regroup.

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An 80% foul shooter, Ogunbowale rimmed out her first attempt.

"They work so hard", one fan said. We just didn't come out ready.

The teams went back on fourth until Chloe Jackson's layup put Baylor up by two with six seconds to play. She potentially could have gone to the WNBA this year. And she will be back, I promise you that. Once she was helped off the floor, Notre Dame began to claw back in her absence. The Irish trailed 64-55 early in the fourth quarter before scoring 13 of the next 16 to take a 68-66 lead on Ogunbowale's short jumper with 3:56 left.

In a win over UConn on January 3, Smith scored 12 points and grabbed six rebounds in 15 minutes of play.

I could go on and on about this game and the emotions surrounding it.

For myself, I'll just say that I was incredibly proud to be Irish this weekend. Then she wanted to miss the second but didn't.

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The Lady Bears were primed to run away with the game as Notre Dame struggled to score.

"I'm overcome with happiness, " said Brown, the 6-foot-7 senior center who was a three-time unanimous All-Big 12 pick with the Lady Bears.

"Absolutely", Jackson said. "I believed it".

A hobbled Cox - who had to leave the game in a wheelchair - was able to return to the court before the game ended and got to hoist the trophy with her teammates.

Freshman NaLyssa Smith was pressed into service by the Cox injury. she proceeded to go ideal from the floor in her appearance, notching 14 points for herself until she missed a shot and fouled out shortly.

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