TAMPA, Fla. — The Lady Bears are national champions! Only Pat Summitt and Geno Auriemma have more national titles as an NCAA Women's Basketball head coach than Baylor's Kim Mulkey.
FINAL SCORE: 82-81 Baylor
Ursin fouled Ogunbowale on the drive, giving the Irish a trip to the line with a chance to take the lead in the final seconds. Uncharacteristically, Ogunbowale missed her first free throw. She made her second shot. After getting fouled once, Baylor successfully in-bounded the ball again to get the clock to expire and win the game.
After seeing how the Irish setup to inbound it, Mulkey immediately called timeout to adjust her defense.
Off the inbound with 15 seconds left, Jackson went iso and zoomed by the Notre Dame defense to take the lead with three seconds left. Score: 82-80 Baylor, Irish called timeout. Jackson went off this game, scoring 26 points for the Lady Bears.
Out of the timeout, Notre Dame fed it inside and Brown fouled Shepard, sending her to the line. She made both shots. It's a tie game with 15 seconds left. Baylor has the ball, and Mulkey called timeout to advance the ball.
Mabrey missed the first shot, and made the second. Tie game with 45 seconds left. Jackson made a clutch shot with 30 seconds left to take the lead. Notre Dame called timeout at the 28 second mark.
Ogunbowale missed a three with 55 seconds left, then Mabrey missed another three with 49 seconds left. Finally, Smith fouled out, sending Mabrey to the line with 47 seconds left.
Landrum put up a prayer as the shot clock expired, and missed. Notre Dame tried to press the issue, and Ogunbowale turned it over. On the ensuing Lady Bears possession, Smith missed a jumper.
Coach Mulkey used a timeout with 2:42 left in the game. Out of the timeout, Brown took the lead back for the Lady Bears. Baylor then stuffed Notre Dame inside on the next possession. Score: 78-77 with two minutes left.
Landrum missed another shot, then Ogunbowale was fouled on the other end by Smith. Smith now has four fouls, so three Lady Bears are in big time foul trouble. Ogunbowale made one foul shot and missed the other. Notre Dame has taken the lead for the first time since the first quarter. Score: 77-76 Irish with 2:42 left.
Coming out of the media timeout, both teams traded baskets. Landrum missed a floater inside, and Mabrey got absolutely swatted by Smith while trying to drive to the hoop.
Wow. After being down by as much as 17 points, the Fighting Irish have lived up to their name and clawed back from the deficit. Mabrey is absolutely on fire. She hit her third three of the fourth quarter to tie the game. Score: 74-74 with 4:55 left in the game.
Ever since Cox went down, the tides have turned. With less than five minutes left, both Jackson and Richards have four fouls. If they foul out, Baylor will be in big trouble.
Ogunbowale was called for her first foul as Richards drove to the baseline. Jackson missed a shot on the inbound, then Ogunbowale was denied inside.
Mabrey is on fire right now. She nailed another three. Smith is heating up too though, she hit another mid-range shot. Shepard responded with a layup. Score: 74-71 Baylor with 6 minutes remaining in the game.
Following an offensive rebound, Smith hit a shot from the top of the key for Baylor. Shepard was denied inside, and Jackson made another mid-range shot for the Lady Bears. The Irish aren't backing down though: Mabrey hit a three immediately. Score: 72-66 Lady Bears around the 7 minute mark.
After Brown had a rare miss, Ogunbowale was fouled on a mid-range jumper that she made, and she converted the and one. In a blink of an eye, Baylor's lead shrunk to just five points.
Opening the fourth quarter, Jackson was called for her fourth foul on a three-point attempt by Mabrey. Mabrey then hit all three shots from the line. Score: 66-58 Baylor.
THIRD QUARTER SCORE: 66-55 Baylor
Ogunbowale finally surpassed the 20 point mark with 32 seconds left in the third quarter. She was eight of 21 from the floor at that point. Jackson hit a shot on Baylor's last possession, then Ogunbowale raced down the floor and hit a three to beat the buzzer. Score: 66-55 Lady Bears.
Brown missed a shot off the dribble, then bodies dove on the floor for the ball. Coach Mulkey called a timeout before the shot clock expired.
At the 1:22 mark, Lauren Cox went down with an injury, and she was grabbing her knee. Coach Mulkey immediately went to her. She was taken off the court in a wheelchair.
Out of the Notre Dame timeout, Brown got called for her second foul as Turner tried to score inside. Turner hit both free throws. Brown then fought inside, and scored off a second chance layup on the ensuing Lady Bear possession.
Brown was fouled after towering over the Notre Dame bigs to snag a rebound. Landrum then nailed a three to extend Baylor's lead to 14 points. Notre Dame called a timeout. With 2:11 left in the third quarter, Baylor is up 60-46.
Richards hit a layup off the inbound, then Baylor forced a jump ball on the other end to earn the ball back. Jackson has been having her way, but Young managed to block her. Off the inbound, Cox showed off her post skills and scored inside. Baylor leads 57-46 with 2:43 left in the third.
Out of the media timeout, both teams missed threes. Ogunbowale showed off her vision, as she dished it to Turner for an easy layup. Turner was then called for her third foul, and she was sent to the bench.
Richards was called for her third foul around five minutes left, so Mulkey sent her to the bench.
After a steal by Mabrey, Jackson was called for a foul, giving her two on the night. Ogunbowale then nailed a three. Jackson responded with a jumper of her own. Once again, Ogunbowale hit a jumper, bringing her point total to 19.
After a miss on a three by Mabrey, Richards pushed the pace and finished on a nice layup. On the next possession, Brown went to work again, showing off her footwork on a nice layup inside. Around the 7:00 mark, the Lady Bears lead the Irish 51-37.
Baylor went to work immediately to start the third, as Cox made an inside shot. Mabrey responded with a jumper of her own for the Irish. After Jackson missed a shot, Brown got tied up and a jump ball was called. Possession went to Notre Dame.
HALFTIME SCORE: Baylor leads 43-31
It's like the Irish are shooting at a basket with a lid on it. They shot 28 percent from the field. Overall, they've made 11 of their 40 shots. That's the definition of cold.
On the flip side, Baylor was super efficient, shooting 63 percent in the first half. They were 20 of 32 from the field through the first two frames.
Brown has 12 point on six of seven shots. She grabbed seven boards too. Jackson, the Lady Bears' lone grad transfer, has 14 points while shooting 70 percent from the field.
With less than 40 seconds to go, Notre Dame hit a jumper, then Jackson missed on a speedy layup attempt, but Brown was there to clean it up as time expired. At the end of the half, Baylors leads 43-31.
Brown was sent to the free throw line again, and it has not been a good day for her at the charity stripe. She's missed all five of her free throws.
Baylor wasted no time, and Landrum threw a laser at Brown inside, who easily converted. Baylor leads 41-29 with less than 45 seconds left in the second quarter.
Brown blocked Ogunbowale inside, then Landrum was called for a foul after diving for the ball. Ogunbowale hit both free throws. She has 14 points.
Off of an inbound, the Irish missed a long two. Jackson missed a jumper of her own at the other end, then Brown was called for her first foul while fighting for a rebound.
Nalyssa Smith was called for a foul, and Turner hit both shots for the Irish. Then, it was Turner's turn to foul. She sent Brown to the free throw line, and the senior missed both shots.
Ogunbowale's shot is back. She just nailed a three to cut into Baylor's lead. Landrum responded with a jumper of her own to keep Baylor hot. Cox got fouled on a shot inside, earning a trip to the free throw line. She hit both shots. Score: 37-25 Baylor with 2:40 left.
Notre Dame's Marina Mabrey was called for her second foul on the game for some off-ball action. After another Notre Dame miss, the Irish turned it over. With 4:50 left in the half, Baylor leads 33-20.
With about 6:30 left in the half, Baylor is up 33-18. Brown has been too much for Turner and Shepard down low.
Ogunbowale has stayed cold so far this game. Juicy Landrum blocked her down low. Brown has been hustling all game: grabbing boards left and right, cutting on time and staying big inside on defense. So far she has eight points and three rebounds, but her presence is so strong.
Baylor's defense inside has been stifling: Ogunbowale missed a layup and Cox got the board. On the other end, Brown hit a shot inside, which is her sweet spot. Baylor leads 29-16 with about 7:30 left in the second quarter.
Richards started the second quarter with hot hands, forcing a steal on Notre Dame's Brianna Turner. Richards got tied up on a jump ball, and the possession arrow favored Baylor. Richards stayed aggressive, and was called for a foul. Mulkey promptly sent her to the bench.
FIRST QUARTER score: 25-14 Lady Bears
Overall, the Irish went five of 24 from the field in the first half, which translates to an abysmal 21 percent. The Lady Bears took full advantage of that, and banged it inside for high percentage shots to keep growing their lead.
Young hit a jumper for the Irish, but then fouled a Baylor player on the other end. Richards hit a layup off the inbound for Baylor. After a Notre Dame turnover, Richards missed a layup. Jackson forced a steal as the clock waned, zoomed to the other end to beat the buzzer and extend the Lady Bear lead to 11 points.
Notre Dame has made a slight comeback, the score is 19-12 with about 2:28 left in the quarter. Brown is back in the game for Baylor, and after turning it over on Baylor's end, she swatted Shepard. Jackson hit a layup on the other end. Score: 21-14 Baylor with 1:30 remaining.
Ogunbowale has missed all five of her shots so far, but Jessica Shepard cleaned it up with an offensive rebound and putback. On the Irish's next possession, Ogunbowale drew a foul on Richards, and converted the and one. That's a good confidence booster for her.
Notre Dame is shooting a pathetic eight percent from the field. They're one of 13 shooting in the opening frame.
Kalani Brown is getting looked at by trainers for a lower leg injury. No word yet on how serious it is.
Cox picked up her first foul of the game, and Jackie Young sunk both free throws for the Irish. Notre Dame used their second timeout already, with five minutes left in the first. The Irish have zero field goals in the last three minutes and 20 seconds.
Notre Dame has missed several jumpers: The Fighting Irish are already one of nine from the field at the 6:30 mark of the opening quarter. Meanwhile, Baylor is taking smart, efficient shots, forcing coach McGraw to burn her first timeout. Baylor is winning 11-3 with 6:13 left in the first.
Baylor won the tip, then Arike Ogunbowale immediately stole it from Lauren Cox. Chloe Jackson responded with a steal of her own, and went coast to coast for the first bucket of the game. DiDi Richards fed Cox inside for an easy bucket. Baylor is up 4-3 at the 7:30 mark in the first quarter.
Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey and Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw are fighting for a spot in the history books when the ball tips in Tampa at 5 p.m. Central time. This showdown pits two female head coaches in the National Championship for the first time since 2012, when Mulkey's Lady Bears bested McGraw's squad 80-61 to cap off an undefeated season.
The winner of Sunday night's game will earn a third national title for their program, putting them behind Geno Auriemma (11) and Pat Summitt (8) for most national titles all time as an NCAA Women's Basketball coach.
Plus, Notre Dame is looking to join USC, Tennessee and UConn as the only schools to win back-to-back titles.
En route to the national title game, the Lady Bears defeated squads led by superstars. Iowa's Megan Gustafson had 23 points and nine rebounds in a 85-53 loss to Baylor in the Elite Eight, while Oregon's Sabrina Ionescu put up 18 points and six assists in a 72-67 loss in the National Semifinal.
Now, the Lady Bears will key on Arike Ogunbowale, who hit clutch shots in back-to-back games in last year's Final Four to secure the crown for Notre Dame.
Ogunbowale isn't the only concern for Baylor though: Brianna Turner and Jessica Shepard are dominant inside players. Kalani Brown and Lauren Cox are certainly up for the challenge, but at the end of the day, whichever team wins the battle of the boards will likely be hoisting a trophy.
Every game in the Final Four is a dog fight, and this one will be no different.
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