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Baylor survives Notre Dame comeback attempt to win it all

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Baylor fought off a Notre Dame surge in the second half to win the national title after a key injury let the Irish back into the game.

NCAA Womens Basketball: Final Four Championship Game-Baylor vs Notre Dame
Chloe Jackson was named the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player after scoring 26 points in the title game.
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Baylor’s Lauren Cox went down with an injury with 1:22 left in the third quarter with her Lady Bears up, 62-50. Notre Dame outscored Baylor, 31-20, the rest of the way.

Arike Ogunbowale went to the free-throw line with Notre Dame down two points, with just under two seconds left in the game. Ogunbowale missed the first and made the second, sealing the 82-81 victory for Baylor.

The win gave Baylor its first title since 2012, and Baylor becomes the third program in women’s college basketball to win three national titles.

Baylor dominated the game from the opening tip and ended the first half with a 43-31 lead. The Baylor defense was swarming, holding Notre Dame to just 28 percent in the half. The Lady Bears owned the paint, scoring 30 of their 43 points down low.

Baylor outscored the Irish 54-24 in the paint over the course of the game.

The second half started out to be more of the same, but the Cox injury changed everything.

A buzzer-beating three-point shot by Ogunbowale would cut the Bears’ lead to 11. Without Cox in the lineup, freshman Naylssa Smith would be tasked with guarding Jessica Shepard. Shepard scored seven of her 11 points in the final frame and Smith fouled out late in the quarter.

Marina Mabrey made three three-point shots in the quarter, including one that tied the game at 74 with five-and-a-half minutes left. A free throw by Ogunbowale with just over three minutes in regulation put Notre Dame in the lead for the first time since the opening minutes of the game.

Notre Dame would tie the game twice with under a minute left, but Chloe Jackson scored the final two baskets for the Bears. Jackson finished with a team-high 26 points and was named the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player.

With under two seconds left, Ogunbowale went to the free-throw line needing both shots to tie the game. However, the first shot rimmed out. After making the second free throw, Notre Dame never got the ball back and Baylor sealed the 2019 championship game.

Ogunbowale scored a game-high 31 points.