For the third time under legendary head coach Kim Mulkey, the Baylor Lady Bears (37-1) are the national champions. Baylor outlasted Notre Dame 82-81, for the title Sunday night in Tampa.
With the game tied at 78, senior point guard Chloe Jackson put in a running jumper from just inside the free throw line to give Baylor an 80-78 lead with just 28.6 seconds remaining. A pair of free throws from Notre Dame’s Jessica Shepard tied the game with 16.1 seconds remaining.
Jackson, just as she’d done earlier in the tournament to push Baylor into the title game, drove hard to the basket for a scooping lay-up to put Baylor in front again, 82-80, with just 3.9 seconds left.
Notre Dame again got fouled on a drive with under two seconds left, but Arike Ogunbowale missed the first free throw, before making the second. After Baylor inbounded the ball and got fouled, then inbounded again, time expired and Baylor had their third national title.
Jackson led the Bears with 26 points and Kalani Brown added 20 points and 13 rebounds.
Baylor, who trailed briefly in the game's opening minutes, built a 17-point lead in the second quarter.
They still led by 12 late in the third quarter, when junior forward Lauren Cox suffered what appeared to be a serious left leg injury and had to be taken to the locker room.
Over the next seven minutes, Notre Dame would erase that entire deficit tying the game at 74 with under five minutes remaining.
Notre Dame went in front 77-76 with just over three minutes remaining for their first lead since leading early 3-2, but Baylor went back in front on a Brown jumper.
Baylor finished the season on a 29-game winning streak.
Buy championship gear at the Baylor Bookstore website.