Written by Zach Bartkus
Tampa, FL. – The 2019 NCAA Women’s National Championship game was played on Sunday at Amalie Arena where the Notre Dame Fighting Irish took on the Baylor Bears. Just two days before this game, the Bears defeated the Oregon Ducks 72-67 and the Irish defeated The UCONN Huskies 81-76 to move on and vie for the National Championship title with Baylor.
In a first half where the Bears jumped out to an early lead, it still felt like a close game in Tampa. Both sides of the crowd were energetic and into the game. Notre Dame would need that energy from the crowd to keep them in the game as they didn’t have the best night shooting the ball. The Irish were just 5-24 (20.8%) from the field and 1-3 (33.3%) from three-point range in the first 10 minutes. Baylor would take advantage of that throughout the quarter and take a 25-14 lead at the end of the quarter.
All through the second quarter it seemed to be the same story, Baylor was very much in control of the game, but it could’ve easily been the other way around if the Irish were to hit their shots. Unfortunately for the Irish that didn’t seem to happen at all in the first half. They would end the half shooting 11-40 (27.5%) from the field and trailing the Bears 43-31. “They punched us from the beginning like almost everyone does, but they kept on punching.” Notre Dame’s Marina Mobley said after the game.
The second half began, and both teams went back and forth, trading buckets for seven possessions straight and the only miss coming from Notre Dame’s Marina Mabrey on a three-point shot. With 1:22 left in the third quarter, Baylor’s Junior Forward, Lauren Cox, went down holding her knee. She would end up being taken off the court in a wheelchair and head back to the locker room. Cox would eventually end up on Baylor’s sideline helping as much as she could for the rest of the game. “It was really hard, she’s our leader, she’s the reason why we’re here, but we had to come together as a family.”, Senior Baylor Guard, Chloe Jackson said postgame.
Before and after Cox’s injury occurred, we saw the Notre Dame that we have seen all season come to life. The fast break, quick hitting, and sharp-shooting offense had arrived. This offense brought the Irish back into the game through the third and fourth quarter.
By the five-minute mark in the fourth quarter, the game was tied at 74. In those last five minutes, the teams both stepped their games up to the next level. Blocks, clutch shots, and even free throws would end up being the deciding factor in the game. On the final play of the game, Arike Ogunbowale, of Notre Dame would drive to the basket and draw a foul on Baylor’s Moon Ursin under the basket. This would set up Ogunbowale to tie the game at 82 if she converted on both shots from the line. Unfortunately for the player that hit the title-winning shot last year, things wouldn’t be the same, she went 1-2 from the line, missing the first and making the second, leaving the score at 81-82.
Baylor’s Chloe Jackson led the Bears with 26 points, two rebounds and five assists alongside Kalani Brown’s 20 points, 13 rebounds and a single assist. For Notre Dame, Arike Ogunbowale put up 31 points, six rebounds, and an assist as Marina Mabrey had 21 points three rebounds and three assists while shooting 50% from three-point land.
This was the Bears third National Championship game appearance, and also their third National Championship win. They continued their 28-game win streak also, extending it to 29-games Sunday night. They will look to continue their winning streak next season and also hope to protect their National Championship title.