NCAA Basketball

Baylor blows 17-point lead, wins championship anyway

After blowing a 17-point point second quarter lead, the Baylor Bears made just enough shots to win the third national championship in program history by beating the Notre Dame Fighting Irish 82-81.

Chloe Jackson made the game winning bucket look easy when she drove right through the Notre Dame defense for the layup that gave the Bears an 82-80 lead.

At this point both teams used their final timeouts to come up with a plan for the final seconds left on the clock. The end result was an unsuccessful layup by Arike Ogunbowale, she missed the first free throw but hit the second one to cut Baylor’s lead to one with 1.9 seconds left. With no timeouts Notre Dame was forced to foul with 0.3 seconds left; since the Bears weren’t in the bonus the in bounded the ball and let time expire.

Jackson hit a contested jumper from the free throw line to give Baylor back the lead with less than 30 seconds left in the game. Notre Dame took a timeout after that, and still had one remaining, to focus on offense. It didn’t matter as they rushed a shot anyway, but were bailed out by a ill advised foul on Kalani Brown on Jessica Shepard; this time the senior hit both of her free throws to tie the game at 80.

After Mabrey tied the game, both teams traded buckets to keep it tied; then both teams traded missed buckets. Notre Dame took the lead when Ogunbowale made a her bonus free throw after freshmen NaLyssa Smith fouled her during an attempted layup.

Baylor would retake the lead after Brown hit a jumper, and both teams wasted possessions on the offensive side of the floor due to sloppy passing. The bad ball movement, and rushed shots, became a theme for both teams as time burned off the clock. Unfortunately for the Bears, Smith’s fifth foul knocked out their only remaining big that could compete with the Irish size wise and sent Shepard to the free throw line.

Shepard missed her first free throw, but hit the second one to tie the game.

Jackson started the fourth quarter with a foul on Mabrey while she was shooting that sent her to the charity stripe. Mabrey hit all three of her free throws to close within nine of Baylor. The Bears followed up those free throws with a empty possession; which was followed up by Ogunbowale three point play after she was fouled on a jumper. The wheels were coming of the bus at this point as Jessica Shepard hit jumper for Notre Dame to close the gap to three points.

It was at this point Smith made her presence felt on both ends of the court as she hit a jumper and pulled in a couple of key defensive rebounds to help the Bears regain some sense of control. Baylor manged to push its lead back up to seven with a three pointer before Notre Dame responded with a three of its own.

Without Cox in the line-up, Baylor’s defense became conservative and tried to guard the hoop. Notre Dame was only too glad to eat up all of the three point shots it could as they scored nine straight points from beyond the arc to close the score to 69-72 with 6:45 left. On the offensive end of the court, the Bears finally found their groove but their two points shots weren’t able to keep up with hot shooting hand for Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish overcame a 17-point deficit when Mabrey hit a three point shot from in front of her bench to tie the game at 74.

Lauren Cox went down with an apparent knee injury with about 90 seconds left in the quarter. Her loss was huge for the Bears as she is one of the few players on the roster that can match-up with Ogunbowale in the paint.

On the ensuing offensive possession, Ogunbowale made easy work of Baylor in the paint as she hit a jumper on the Irish’ ensuing offensive possession. While Baylor responded on the offensive end of the court to push its lead back to 14 after the senior’s jumper; Ogunbowale showed how complete a player she is by drilling a buzzer beater from the top of the three point arc.

Turner hit a three to extend Notre Dame’s run to 9-2 and cut the Bears’ lead down to seven points. Baylor’s scoring drought, roughly two minutes, came to an end when Richards hit a layup following another Irish turnover. Cox hit another jumper for the Bears to put an end to Notre Dame’s run and extend her team’s lead out to 11 points.

Juicy Landrum made the lead when she drilled a three pointer with 2:11 left in the quarter. This forced McGraw to use a timeout as her squad now trailed 46 to 60.

The game finally began to turn Baylor’s way through the first five-plus minutes of the third quarter. Ogunbowale hit a three pointer and a jumper to cut the Bears lead down to nine points after it had been as high as 14 after the break. Baylor’s offense struggled with ball control prior to the official’s timeout with 4:49 left in the third frame.

While the Bears started the quarter with a 8-0 run, the last two buckets were scored by Briana Turner and Marina Mabrey for Notre Dame before the media timeout. After the timeout, Ogunbowale hit the Irish’s second three pointer of the game to cut the lead to eight.

The Irish’s 9-0 run was ended when Jackson hit a jumper near the hoop to extend Baylor’s lead back up to ten.

Baylor pushed its lead to 12 points when Brown hit another jumper, bringing her up to 10 points in the first half. The only issues with Brown’s game during the first half was her 0-5 from the charity stripe. At halftime, Jackson and Ogunbowale were tied at 14 points to lead all scorers; while Brown was at 10 points.

The second quarter started with a Ogunbowale jumper for McGraw’s squad, but that was the only offense they’d get for the first three and a half minutes of the quarter. Meanwhile, Brown was unstoppable on the offensive end of the court. The senior was responsible for the first six points her team scored during the quarter.

Notre Dame couldn’t keep control of the rock, and even after a pair of made free throws pushed the Irish up to five points; Baylor was on a roll offensively and hit another easy layup off a stolen ball. This forced McGraw to take her second timeout of the quarter.

Unfortunately for the Irish, whatever was discussed during the timeout helped their offense get going…but the defense still struggled to stop Baylor’s offensive attack as the Bears ended the first quarter with a 25-14 lead. The quarter ended on a Notre Dame turnover and a contested layup.

The first four minutes of the women’s national championship game started off awfully for the Fighting Irish. Not only were Notre Dame’s shots not falling, the offense routinely struggled with sloppy ball handling that gave Baylor many opportunities to score on the fast break; like on the first bucket of the game.

The sloppy ball handling, and poor shooting, saw Baylor race off to a 13-3 lead before Notre Dame took a time out, it was the first taken timeout of the quarter.