One year ago, Chloe Jackson was not on the Baylor women's basketball team. Today, she is its national championship savior after hitting a driving layup with 3.9 seconds remaining, lifting Baylor to an 82-81 win over Notre Dame and the NCAA Women’s Title [this week].
With the win, Baylor coach Kim Mulkey joins Geno Auriemma and Pat Summitt as the only coaches in women's Division I history with three or more national titles. As the final buzzer sounded, Mulkey broke down in tears as she received a full embrace from her entire staff.
Mulkey and the Lady Bears would not have raised the trophy without Jackson, who saved her best basketball for the Women's Final Four. Jackson hit a driving layup against Oregon with less than a minute remaining to get Baylor to the national championship game. The graduate transfer from LSU was sensational the entire game against Notre Dame, scoring a team-high 26 points as the key difference-maker on both teams.
But the Lady Bears, whose motto this season was "Together to Tampa," had to sweat out their third national championship after losing team leader Lauren Cox.
Before she exited, Baylor had scored 25 points on 11 of 14 field goals when Cox got a touch at the free throw line.
But without Cox, the team's entire complexion changed. Notre Dame, which has been a second-half team throughout the tournament, looked emboldened and far more aggressive. The Fighting Irish went on a 13-5 run, with eight points from last year’s hero Arike Ogunbowale to close the gap to three early in the fourth quarter.
Ogunbowale actually had a chance to repeat her heroics as she was fouled with 1.9 seconds remaining only to miss her first free throw, and that ended up being the difference in the game.
Guess this wasn’t her year, it was Chloe’s.