That team is so good, so talented. "I needed to make them understand, 'We're going to still win this basketball game".
Almost upstaging her was Ogunbowale, who led all scorers with 31 and helped the Irish rally from a 17-point second-half deficit. She only missed two shots and she never turned the ball over. And she did, just like we knew she would.
"We had to do it for LC", Chloe Jackson, referring to Cox, told reporters after the game. "We did bring a national championship".
"Well, I trusted her", an emotionally drained Kim Mulkey said at the postgame presser, sitting at the podium.
After being the hero in this game one year ago, Ogunbowale missed a free throw with under 2 seconds to play that could have sent the title game into OT.
Last year's title run by Notre Dame was a shock.
Richards, one of three starters who will be back next season, said she can't wait to see the 2019 national championship banner hanging from the rafters near the 2005 and 2012 title banners. But we had the same thing past year. She made a shot with one second remaining to beat UConn in the semifinals, then hit a tiebreaking 3-pointer with one-tenth of a second left to top the Bulldogs in the title game. That led Nalyssa Smith to play the part of Brown inside, and she proved ready as well, looking anything but freshman like as she challenged Notre Dame bigs Jessica Shepard and Brianna Turner, scoring a pair of hoops at the rim and actually increasing Baylor's lead to 17-7 by the time Brown returned.
"It just wasn't meant to be".
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"We knew they were holding something in their bag", said sophomore guard DiDi Richards, who had six points and six assists. "But things happen. I had a fun, great career here at Notre Dame". The Lady Bears led by 12 at the time, and the Irish wasted little time taking advantage.
A freak accident if there ever was on, Cox's teammate Kalani Brown landed on Cox's leg, sending the junior post player to the ground and a hush over the crowd.
Arike Ogunbowale wipes away tears as she walks off the floor. Her mom was tearing up in the stands, and her dad had his hands over his face.
"Obviously, it's hard to look at the big picture right now, but I know that us five seniors have done a lot for this program", Mabrey said. Mulkey made it sound like Cox could miss at least some of next season because of the injury. "We had control of that game from the start to the time she went off the floor". "But she just went into the huddle and she told us, 'You all got this, you got all this.' It lifted us".
By late in the fourth quarter, Cox had returned to the Baylor bench with metal crutches. There's a reason she is the undisputed master of triple doubles in college basketball: she is dominant in every aspect of the game.
In tears during the post-game celebration, Mulkey said she was "emotional from Cox's injury", which was painfully similar to the torn ACL that senior point guard Kristy Wallace suffered previous year "that kept us from getting (to the Final Four)". She complemented a dominant Bears interior that outscored Notre Dame, 54-24 in the paint.
Ionescu might not have been able to pull off a miracle against an insanely talented Baylor team this season, but by deciding to finish up her "unfinished business", she just gave the women's college basketball world a massive gift.