14 years after their first national title and seven years after their second, the Baylor women’s basketball team won their third national championship in school history, defeating Notre Dame 82-81! The Lady Bears closed their season with a 29 game winning streak and a 37-1 record, with their only loss following a battle against Stanford during non-conference play. I was lucky enough to work at numerous Lady Bear games over the season, including the weekend we hosted the first and second rounds of the NCAA tournament last month. Watching the Baylor women’s basketball team play is like witnessing a choreographed ballet where each dancer knows her exact steps and movements. Baylor women’s basketball always competes at the highest caliber and their specialty is how each player knows exactly where she should be and what her next moves are at all times. This level of perfection sent the Lady Bears from Waco, where they played ACU and Cal, to North Carolina, where they faced South Carolina and Iowa, to the Final Four in Tampa as they closed their season with victories against Oregon and Notre Dame.
The Lady Bears finished the first quarter with an impressive 11 point lead, scoring 25 points to Notre Dame’s 14. Shooting 66.67% of field goals (12-18) and nailing one of three 3’s kept Baylor in a safe enough distance from the Fighting Irish after 10 minutes. They continued their run through the rest of the half, closing the second quarter with a 43-31 score. The Lady Bears decreased their field goal percentage to 57.14% (8-14), and made only 2-7 free throws for a 28.57%, but they remained in the lead at halftime. Although Baylor stayed at a distance from Notre Dame by the end of the third quarter, 66-55, they lost junior star F Lauren Cox, who went down with an excruciating leg injury that would have her out for the rest of the game. Losing Cox seemed to shake the Baylor women’s basketball team until they nearly allowed the game to slip away during the fourth quarter. Within the first two minutes of the fourth quarter, the Fighting Irish fought back to cut the Lady Bears’ lead to only three points and remained closely behind until they tied the game 74-74 with five minutes left. At seven minutes into the quarter, the Fighting Irish took a one point lead, which they traded back and forth with the Lady Bears until the game once again tied at 80-80 with 47 seconds left. Senior PG Chloe Jackson saved the Lady Bears’ hopes with a field goal at 43 seconds and sealed the victory with another layup at the three second mark. Although sophomore G Moon Ursin fouled Notre Dame star Arike Ogunbowale with one second left, the latter shockingly missed one of her free throws, which clinched Baylor’s title as national champions.
The Lady Bears earned the victory with an impressive 54 points scored in the paint compared to Notre Dame’s 24 and holding the Fighting Irish to only seven 3’s. Chloe Jackson was the biggest star of the game, named the Most Outstanding Player with a season-high 26 points, including the game-winner. Congratulations Lady Bears!