All season long, Baylor thrived on dominance of its post players and against Notre Dame in the national championship game on Sunday, the bigs once again came up — well — big. Time after time, 6-foot-7 Kalani Brown turned on the left block for layups or 6-4 Lauren Cox followed with a rebound.
However with 1 minute 22 seconds remaining in the third quarter, Cox came down awkwardly from an attempted rebound and crumpled to the floor grabbing her knee. Her screams filled the quieted arena. The team’s trainer ran to her aid, and Coach Kim Mulkey draped her body over her sobbing player. Cox left the court in a wheelchair, and with that, Baylor lost its second-leading scorer, top rebounder and top shot blocker. At that point, the Lady Bears led, 62-50. But early in the fourth, without Cox to slow them down, the Irish cut the lead to 3, and then tied the game with 4:55 left.
Baylor held on, however, defeating the Irish, 82-81, to be crowned national champion.
It’s the Lady Bears’ third national championship and first since blowing out the Irish in the 2012 final. Only Connecticut (11) and Tennessee (eight) have more championships in the N.C.A.A. era.
Baylor, the top overall seed, entered the tournament with just one loss — to Stanford in December. The Lady Bears exerted their dominance throughout the tournament, rolling over opponents by an average margin of 38.2 points in their romp to the Final Four. In the semifinals, Baylor survived a potential upset against Oregon by frustrating the Ducks’ sharpshooters and dominating inside.
Baylor thwarted Notre Dame’s chances for winning back-to-back titles.
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SOURCE: New York Times, Kelly Whiteside