Chloe Jackson’s driving layup with 3.9 seconds left Sunday night lifted top-seeded Baylor to an 82-81 win over defending champion Notre Dame for the NCAA Women’s National Championship at Amalie Arena in Tampa.
Jackson pumped in 26 points on 13-of-25 shooting for the Bears (37-1), which joined Connecticut and Tennessee as the only women’s programs to win at least three national titles. Baylor’s previous championships came in 2005 and 2012.
The Fighting Irish (35-4) had a chance to force overtime, but Arike Ogunbowale missed the first of two foul shots with 1.9 seconds remaining. She tried to miss the second on purpose, hoping for an offensive rebound, but made it. The Bears were able to melt away the remaining time.
Ogunbowale scored a game-high 31 points on 11-of-27 shooting, while Marina Mabrey added 21. Brianna Turner contributed 12 points, 12 rebounds and five assists, and Jessica Shepard chipped in 11 points and 10 rebounds.
Kalani Brown scored 20 points and grabbed 13 rebounds for Baylor, while freshman NaLyssa Smith came off the bench to net 14 points. Smith replaced 6-foot-4 Lauren Cox late in the third quarter after the All-American forward injured her left knee and had to be carted off the floor.
Baylor put its stamp on the game right away, forcing a Notre Dame timeout just 3:46 into the game when Jackson canned a jumper for an 11-3 lead. Jackson capped a 10-point quarter with a driving layup as time expired for a 25-14 Bears lead.
The margin reached 17 when Jackson converted a jumper with 6:38 left in the second quarter to make it 33-16. The Irish finally pushed back with a 9-0 run, but Brown’s putback with 2.3 seconds remaining enabled Baylor to take a 43-31 advantage to the locker room.
A Juicy Landrum 3-pointer with 2:21 remaining in the third quarter gave the Bears a 60-46 lead, but Notre Dame started its comeback with Agunbowale’s pullup 3-pointer as the horn sounded, pushing it within 66-55.
The Fighting Irish scored the first eight points of the final quarter to get within three, then tied the game at 74 with 5:18 to play on a 3-pointer by Mabrey. They took a brief lead on Ogunbowale’s free throw with 3:17 left, going ahead 77-76, but Brown’s jumper put the Bears back in front before the final sequence.