Notre Dame and Baylor met in the women’s national championship game on Sunday night in Tampa Bay and delivered an instant classic where Chloe Jackson and Arike Ogunbowale put on a show.
The Bears jumped out to an early double-digit lead, going up 25-14 after one quarter on the Irish and maintained that advantage at the half.
However, Notre Dame, like a year ago, was unfazed and, despite a 17-point deficit at one point, clawed their way back into the game in the second half. Baylor saw forward Lauren Cox suffer a devastating knee injury and had to be taken to the locker room in a wheelchair late in the third quarter with a 12-point lead.
After the injury the tide shifted in the game as the Irish began to reel in the Bears, following the lead of Ogunbowale, who hit the game-winning three-pointer in the title game a year ago, and followed that up with a 31-point effort in this year’s game.
The Irish tied the game at 74 after a 19-8 run to open the fourth quarter as Marina Mabrey caught fire from three, and at one point held a 77-76 with under three minutes to play.
Baylor was able to withstand that run and retake the lead themselves twice in the closing minutes, the second coming on a clutch jumper from Jackson, who led the Bears with 26 points.
Notre Dame was able to tie the game on a pair of free throws from Jessica Shepard, but once again Jackson had the answer on the other end with a tremendous drive and finish at the rim with 3.9 seconds to go.
On Notre Dame’s final possession, Ogunbowale got to the basket and drew a foul, but saw her first free throw attempt cruelly bounce off the rim three times and out. With Baylor not yet in the bonus, Notre Dame wasn’t able to send the Bears to the line to hopefully get a desperation shot at the win and the Bears emerged victorious with a 82-81 win.