Baylor Hangs on 82-81 for National Championship
Both Baylor and Notre Dame were looking to put an exclamation point on the season by wining the Women’s National Championship game Sunday at Amalie Arena. Right away, Baylor set the tone with a quick couple of three pointers. By the six-minute mark of the 1st quarter it was 11-3 in favor of the Lady Bears who were doing their work both in and out of the paint. As the quarter wore on Baylor started pounding it down low with their size advantage on Notre Dame, jumping out to a 15-5 lead. That lead grew to 11 heading into the 2nd quarter despite Notre Dame starting to come alive offensively.
The Baylor lady Bears continued to be too big and too strong for the Fighting Irish in the 2nd quarter. Baylor’s “bully ball” game plan has been working perfectly to get past Notre Dame. The Lady Bears went up 33-16 halfway through the quarter. Then the Irish were able to cu the lead to ten at 35-25, but Baylor responded with two straight buckets to go back up 14. As the first half came to a close the Irish still did not have an answer for Baylor’s post-game and found themselves down 12 points.
Coming out of the half, Muffet McGraw’s squad seemed like a completely different team. Instead of just letting Baylor have their way, the Irish started clawing back. This rejuvenated Notre Dame squad was able to cut the lead to 7 with about 4 minutes left in the quarter. But less than 2 minutes later Baylor was back up 14. The Irish hit a 3 just before the buzzer to make it a 11-point game going into the 4th. Baylor also suffered a huge loss in the final minutes of the 3rd as Lauren Cox has to leave the game in a wheelchair after suffering what appeared to be an injury to her knee. The question now is how much the Lady Bears will miss their enforcer with Cox out for the remainder of the game.
It didn’t take long for Notre Dame to take advantage of Cox’s absence. They quickly pulled to within 5 points at 66-61. The Irish made it a 3-point game on back-to-back three pointers by Marina Mabry. Mabry then added a 3rd three pointer to tie the game at 74. The Irish finally claimed the lead 77-76 on a free throw by Arike Ogunbowale. Chole Jackson then put the Lady Bears up 2 with just under 30 seconds to play. Notre Dame’s Jessica Shepard then tied the game at 80 with 16 seconds to play. Chole Jackson then hit a layup to put Baylor up 82-80 with 3.9 seconds left. Notre Dame had one last chance to tie the game up but Ogunbowale split a pair of free throws, sealing the 82-81 victory for the Baylor Lady Bears.