Baylor holds off Notre Dame 82-81 for women’s championship

April 09 23:00 2019

Arike Ogunbowale led that comeback effort with 31 points, but fouled in the final seconds with a chance to send the game to overtime, her first free throw rattled out.

The game was also the first championship game since 2012 in which both coaches – Notre Dame’s Muffet McGraw and Baylor’s Kim Mulkey – were women. That team is so good, so talented. Smith replaced 6-foot-4 Lauren Cox late in the third quarter after the All-American forward injured her left knee.

Almost upstaging her was Ogunbowale, who led all scorers with 31 and helped the Irish rally from a 17-point second-half deficit.

“Really, I was just praying that she missed those free throws”, Smith said, laughing.

“That kid, if she didn’t get hurt, would have been the No. 1 probably pick in the (WNBA) draft next year”, Mulkey said.

Jackson added of Cox, “We had to finish the job for her”.

Baylor, fourth nationally in field-goal percentage (50.4), shot 62.5 percent (20-for-32) in the opening half and outscored the Irish, 30-8, in the paint.

Mulkey now joins Geno Auriemma and Pat Summitt as the only coaches in women’s Division-I history with three-or-more titles.

A jumper by Ogunbowale with 9:06 to play trimmed the Lady Bears’ edge to 66-60, and Marina Mabrey’s 3-pointer with 5:18 to play pulled the Irish even at 74-74.

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

Richards, one of three starters who will be back next season, said she can’t wait to see the 2019 national championship banner hanging from the rafters near the 2005 and 2012 title banners. “I’ve done both in the past year and a half”.

Cox was taken off the court in a wheelchair during the third quarter of the title game Sunday night but returned to the bench and provided an emotional lift during the final minutes of the Lady Bears’ 82-81 victory over Notre Dame. Perhaps even adding to the shock of Jackson’s offensive surge was the fact that two nights ago against OR, she stumbled her way to a 3-of-11 shooting night, not scoring until late in the third quarter.

“It just wasn’t meant to be”. One of them was guard Chameka Scott, an effervescent guard who never met a stranger. “But things happen. I had a fun, great career here at Notre Dame”.

It wasn’t without the last bit of drama after Jackson’s 12-footer went down – a familiar play, one the Bears ran late against OR as well.

Kalani Brown spent much of the opening frame on the bench with cramps to her lower legs, but it didn’t stop the Lady Bears. Her mom was tearing up in the stands, and her dad had his hands over his face.

For myself, I’ll just say that I was incredibly proud to be Irish this weekend.

A Brown, Cox, and Smith front court started to overpower Notre Dame inside and break the game back open. We’re going to still win this basketball game. We are lucky to have you, we are fortunate to have witnessed all these great seniors and we thank you for continuing to make our game absolutely incredible. “And they fought back, which is what we’ve always loved about them, because they just are so feisty and always come back”.

Time ran out on Notre Dame as Baylor inbounded the ball.

Of Mulkey’s three titles, it’s the second time that Baylor head coach is sharing it with her daughter. “To do it my freshman year is just incredible”. That’s her five-month-old grandson, Kannon. Overall, almost 275,000 fans attended the entire tournament, which ranks eighth all-time, including 20,127 for the title game. The whole time, she was coaching on the sideline.

Baylor guard Chloe Jackson scoring the go-ahead basket in Sunday's championship game

Baylor holds off Notre Dame 82-81 for women’s championship
 
 
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