Baylor defeats Notre Dame in classic NCAA women's basketball final


Last season, Notre Dame won its second championship, adding to its 2001 title.

The wild game featured 21 ties and 38 lead changes. A game with an unprecedented level of history between the two teams and a fourth-quarter comeback? "The game didn't come down to that free throw".

Baylor beat OR 72-67 in the first semifinal, setting up a rematch of the 2012 national championship game the Lady Bears won 80-61.

With 3.9 seconds left, point guard Chloe Jackson drove past Notre Dame's defense to put Baylor ahead at 82-80.

That completed a game that followed a familiar script for the Irish in their previous tournament contests in which they fell behind only to finish strong. Moon Ursin fouled Ogunbowale on her baseline drive rather than let her get a clean look at a game-tying basket. Ogunbowale got the ball and drove to the hoop on the next possession to draw the foul, but the first missed free throw and the made second one meant Notre Dame finished a point short this season. Until about the last 20 seconds of each semifinal, it was impossible to predict which team would emerge victorious. "We finally punched back, but it took too long".

The Fighting Irish overcame a 17-point, first-half deficit to briefly take the lead down the stretch. The Lady Bears hit 7 of their first 10 shots to take a 15-5 lead over Notre Dame.

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The Bears have won 29 consecutive games, last losing at Stanford in December.

Before exiting the game, Cox had scored eight points for the Bears, along with eight rebounds, two assists, one steal and three blocks. Samuelson got the last dig after she was fouled behind the arc and hit a trio of free throws to put CT up 54-52 heading into the fourth quarter.

The Huskies' lead kept growing before the Irish rallied in front of a sellout crowd of 20,062. The Nike-sponsored UConn has been somewhat of a powerhouse in women's hoops for the past decade, making regular Final Four appearances and winning championships in both 2010 and 2013.

Brown scored a game-high 22 points Friday night. When Notre Dame tied the game at 74-74 in the fourth quarter, Smith broke it by connecting on an unassisted mid-range shot. I've always said coming in here, all the time, there's certain things that when you have a certain kind of team, there's certain things that the other team can do to you that you don't have anything that you can come back with and say, Well, I know how we can get a stop, we'll trap them.Well, that doesn't work against these guys because they always find the open guy. But unlike her clutch shot to win the championship a year ago, there were no heroics this time.

Briana Turner played as solid as ever for the Irish finishing with a 15-point, 15-rebound double-double. The Baylor Bears are averaging 81.9 points on 50.3 percent shooting and allowing 54.6 points on 31.4 percent shooting. And with Jessica Shepard and Brianna Turner uniquely suited to challenge a team with Kalani Brown and Lauren Cox, Notre Dame has more than history on its side.

This time, Notre Dame needed Arike Ogunbowale a lot earlier. Will the Irish go out with back-to-back titles or will Baylor win their first title in seven years?