One of the best shooters in the history of women’s basketball, Arike Ogunbowale went to the free throw line with two shots and a chance to force overtime in the women’s national championship game.
And just a year removed from banging home the game-winners in both the Final Four and the title game, Ogunbowale missed. She would make the second free throw, but Notre Dame never got the ball back, losing 82-81 in a thrilling women’s title game.
With the win, Mulkey joins Pat Summitt and Geno Auriemma as the women’s coaches with three national titles to their name.
Chloe Jackson, who ended with 25 points and six assists, was the hero for the Bears. Her driving layup with 3.9 seconds left put Baylor up 82-80, but that win was hardly ever comfortable. Baylor at one point led by 17 points, but the Fighting Irish made a furious rally in the second half, eventually taking the lead as Marina Mabrey, who finished with 12 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter, caught fire.
Notre Dame’s run came on the heels of what appeared to be a significant knee injury to Baylor’s All-American big Lauren Cox. Late in the third quarter, Cox stumbled after getting her feet tangled up and fell, clutching her left knee. She returned to the bench with a brace on, but never made it back into the game.
The win caps off a 37-1 season for the Lady Bears, whose only lost of the year came in December at Stanford. They rolled to dual Big 12 titles and dispatched of South Carolina, Iowa and Oregon en route to the title game.
Baylor will have some rebuilding to do next season. Kalani Brown and Jackson are both seniors, and it is still too early to know if Cox will be healthy by the time next season starts.