Baylor, Notre Dame To Face Off In Sunday Championship Game
Notre Dame will be looking to join UConn, Tennessee and Southern Cal in winning consecutive national championships during the NCAA era in Sunday night's title game against Baylor in Tampa.
It will also be the first championship game since 2012 when both coaches — Notre Dame's Muffet McGraw and Baylor's Kim Mulkey — are women.
McGraw has addressed a number of issues recently including female assistant coaches and a lack of them in men's college basketball.
Baylor and Notre Dame will both be looking for a third national championship in a rematch of the 2012 title game won by the Lady Bears 80-61.
UConn, which was beaten by Notre Dame in last year's semifinals, captured four national straight championships from 2013-16. Tennessee went back-to-back in 2007-08, while Southern Cal won it all in both 1983 and 84.
Baylor advanced after a 72-67 win over first-time Final Four participant Oregon in Friday's first semifinal.
"The feeling is unreal," Baylor center Kalani Brown said. "I'm still in shock. I'm overwhelmed. I'm just happy to be a part of this team right now."
Brown scored a game-high 22 points Friday night. Forward Lauren Cox added 21.
Baylor last made a Final four appearance in the 2012 title season.
"We've played in big games," Cox said. "Obviously we haven't been to a Final Four in a while, but we're used to the pressure, used to that big-game moment."
Arike Ogunbowale scored 23 points and led Notre Dame's rally from a nine-point deficit in the fourth quarter to beat UConn, 81-76. The Irish trailed 64-55 early in the fourth quarter before scoring 13 of the next 16 to take a 68-66 lead on Ogunbowale's short jumper with 3:56 left.
"She just got off to a slow start in a lot of ways. She feels like she has to carry us because she's the leading scorer," McGraw said. "I thought she settled in at halftime. Her teammates really help her. They continue to encourage her and she came alive in the second half."