Baylor Lady Bears: 2019 NCAA national champions!!
Time to celebrate, y’all: The Baylor Lady Bears are 2019 NCAA women’s basketball national champions!
After building a big lead early, the Lady Bears overcame injury to perhaps the team’s most irreplaceable player to pull out an 82-81 win over Notre Dame. Call it the game of a million storylines:
- Senior Kalani Brown, after seeing her team fall short each of her first three years at Baylor, scored 20 points and pulled down a game-high 13 rebounds to lead her team to the title.
- Point guard Chloe Jackson, the team’s only other senior — and who transferred to Baylor less than a year ago — scored a season-high 26 points to lead the Lady Bears.
- Junior Lauren Cox, who head coach Kim Mulkey calls “the heart and soul of our team,” had to be wheeled off the floor with an injury late in the third quarter — a loss that could have completely devastated a lesser team.
- Freshman NaLyssa Smith, pressed into prime-time duty after Cox’s injury, scored 14 big points off the bench — and every one of them was needed in the one-point victory.
Through it all — the pressure, the lineup changes, the injuries, etc. — the Lady Bears stuck together. Lots of teams talk about being a family, but those who watched the championship game nationwide on ESPN saw it on full display Sunday. When Cox got hurt, it wasn’t a coach who was holding her close; it was a mother (now a grandmother). In that moment, Mulkey wasn’t thinking about her team’s championship chances; she was thinking about a young woman’s pain.
After Cox went down — taking out not only the team’s “heart and soul,” but the Big 12’s Defensive Player of the Year — Notre Dame immediately went on a run that erased a 12-point Baylor advantage and gave the Irish the lead with less than four minutes to go. It would have been understandable if Baylor had fallen apart completely; instead, the Lady Bears rallied together. Jackson hit the game-winning shot with just six seconds left, and when the final buzzer sounded, the team erupted in celebration.
[WATCH: Highlights from the game || Brown & Cox’s emotional postgame moment || ESPN’s postgame interviews with Mulkey and Cox || Trophy celebration || Baylor’s postgame press conference || Mulkey’s ESPN interview Monday morning]
The national championship is the third in Baylor women’s basketball history, as the 2019 Lady Bears join the 2012 and 2005 teams in bringing home the title. Only UConn and Tennessee have ever won more championships, and over the last 15 years, only the Huskies can say they’ve claimed more national titles than the Lady Bears.
So today, we celebrate. Join us for a celebration in the Ferrell Center this afternoon (or watch online, via Baylor Athletics’ social media). Get your national champions gear from the Baylor Bookstore. And start making your plans to cheer on the Lady Bears again this fall in the Ferrell Center.
Sic ’em, Lady Bears!
[MORE READING: Game recaps from ESPN, Sports Illustrated, SB Nation, Dallas Morning News, Waco Tribune-Herald, and Baylor Lariat || ESPN: “Baylor, Kim Mulkey complete long road back with NCAA championship” || ESPN: “Injured Cox ‘proud’ after Baylor holds on for title” || The Athletic: “It’s all about family: Baylor claims its third national championship“]