NCAA women's championship: Heroic Jackson lifts Baylor over Notre Dame

Juicy Landrum

Juicy Landrum

She was the first one to hold the trophy after the game.

Notre Dame won the national championship previous year.

The top of the women's basketball world belongs to the Lady Bears of Baylor University.

She patiently answered questions, even while some teammates cried around her after the Irish's 82-81 loss to Baylor on Sunday in the national championship game.

Jackson, who scored a season-high 26 points, was named the most outstanding player of the tournament. Mulkey, the consensus national coach of the year, joins Connecticut's Geno Auriemma and former Tennessee coach Pat Summitt in the ultraexclusive club of women's basketball coaches with at least three national championships.

Yet, despite winning her first title since 2012, it was a bittersweet championship celebration for Lady Bears head coach Kim Mulkey. Collier added four points and five rebounds as she posted her eighth straight double-double with 15 points and 13 rebounds.

Jackson was strong in the opening period too.

OR senior guard Maite Cazorla finished with nine points, six rebounds and four assists in the final game of her collegiate career. But that did not deter her from being aggressive and looking for her shot as she matched those 12 points and knocked down three of Notre Dame's seven 3-pointers. For the first half, the Irish shot just 27.5 percent from the floor.

The Fighting Irish erased an 11-point deficit going into the fourth quarter, and had a one-point lead with about two and a half minutes to go.

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Arike Ogunbowale sat in a quiet Notre Dame locker room, and there were no tears from the senior.

Baylor's Kalani Brown was a force on the inside all night as she finished with a game-high 22 points on 9-of-12 shooting and added seven rebounds, two assists and a block.

It reached 17 with 6:38 left in the half, with Notre Dame laboring through long possessions to come away with a midrange jumper or, more often, nothing. After Baylor's Chloe Jackson made what turned into the winning basket on Sunday, everyone knew the ball would go into Ogunbowale's hands for Notre Dame's last shot. She led the way as Baylor outscored Notre Dame 54-24 in the paint. Baylor and Notre Dame jockeyed for position for the rest of the game until Jackson put the Bears ahead 82-80 with five seconds to go. "And I just know she's hurt because that kid would've gotten up". After transferring twice, from N.C. State and LSU, the Upper Marlboro, Maryland native is a champion.

Cox had two blocks in the first three minutes and eight points and eight rebounds in her 29 minutes of action.

Kalani Brown. Lauren Cox.

While Cox's replacement NaLyssa Smith actually scored 14 points including a few key late baskets, the freshman had a tough time replacing Cox's presence at the defensive end.

Notre Dame senior Marina Mabrey saved her best for the fourth quarter. The senior knocked down three triples in a two-minute span, including one to tie it at 74-74 with just over five minutes to play.

Mabrey finished the game with 21 points, three rebounds and three assists.

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