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Mitchell Northam | NCAA.com | April 6, 2019

Notre Dame vs. Baylor: 2019 NCAA women's championship preview

Notre Dame wins battle against UConn, 81-76

There’s one game remaining in the 2018-19 women’s college basketball season. On Sunday in Tampa, Florida, Baylor and Notre Dame will put everything on the line.

If the Lady Bears are victorious, it will be their third national championship, the first since 2012. Notre Dame is looking to defend its 2018 crown, and a win would give the Fighting Irish its third championship too. Notre Dame would also be the first non-UConn team to repeat as champions since Tennessee in 2007 and 2008.

2019 CHAMPIONSHIP: Final Four info | View the bracket | Print the bracket

Entering this game, Notre Dame has the best offense in the country, scoring 89.1 points per game, while Baylor has the seventh-best offense and the 10th-best defense.

Here’s everything you need to know about the Lady Bears and the Fighting Irish.

Baylor

Head coach: Kim Mulkey, 17th season

Record: 36-1

How they got here: The Lady Bears haven’t lost since Dec. 15, 2018. They beat Iowa State for the Big 12 title, then rolled over Abilene Christian, Cal, South Carolina and Iowa to get to the Final Four, winning each of those games by an average margin of 38.2 points. On Friday night, Oregon gave Baylor a good test, but Sabrina Ionescu and the Ducks’ bid for an upset came up short. The Lady Bears didn’t hit a single three-pointer, but frustrated Ionescu and the Ducks’ shooters and outscored them in the paint 48-20.

Starters (points per game): Chloe Jackson (11.3), DiDi Richards (7.2), Juicy Landrum (11.2), Lauren Cox (13.2), Kalani Brown (15.7)

Top bench player: A freshman from Converse, Texas, Nalyssa Smith is a versatile 6-foot-2 forward who brings toughness and energy off the bench. She typically fills in for Cox or Brown when they need a break. Against Oregon, she played eight minutes and scored two points, grabbed two rebounds and blocked a shot. In Baylor’s Elite Eight win over Iowa, she scored six points and had three rebounds. She averages 8.2 points per game.

TAKEAWAYS: Arike Ogunbowale's late-game heroics lead Notre Dame past UConn

TAKEAWAYS: How Kalani Brown and Lauren Cox powered Baylor over Oregon

Notre Dame

Head coach: Muffet McGraw, 31st season

Record: 35-3

How they got here: After slipping up against Miami on Feb. 7, the Irish haven’t lost since. They ended the regular season on a six-game winning streak, beat North Carolina, Syracuse and Louisville to win the ACC tournament, smashed Bethune Cookman and Michigan State in the opening weekend of the NCAA tournament, then survived Texas A&M and Stanford to reach their second straight Final Four. Against UConn in the national semifinals, Arike Ogunbowale helped the Irish pull away by scoring 11 points in the final five minutes.

Starters (points per game): Marina Mabrey (12.5), Jackie Young (15.1), Brianna Turner (14.4), Jessica Shepard (16.8), Arike Ogunbowale (21.5)

Top bench player: Abby Prohaska is a 5-foot-10 freshman guard from Ohio who has made an immediate impact. She leads all Irish reserves in minutes played, seeing 536 minutes of action over 36 contests, and averages 1.6 points and 1.9 rebounds per-game. She also leads all Irish bench players in assists (42) and steals (30).

CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY: Check out the best performances in the women's basketball tournament

Leading Scorer

 

Arike Ogunbowale (ND)

Kalani Brown (Baylor)

Points per game

21.5

15.7

Total points

795

566

FGM

285

230

FGA

635

375

FG%

44.9

61.3

FT%

80.1

77.9

LOOKING BACK: Here are 5 of the most surprising runs in women's NCAA tournament history

Top Rebounder

 

Jessica Shepard (ND)

Lauren Cox (Baylor)

Height

6’4”

6’4”

Rebounds per game

10.2

8.4

Off. Rebounds

136

93

Def. Rebounds

231

216

Total Rebounds

367

309

NATIONAL STATS: Individual and team leaders in the 2018-19 season

Best Passer

 

Jackie Young (ND)

Chloe Jackson (Baylor)

Assists per game

5.1

5.4

Total assists

184

198

Turnovers

70

80

Assist-Turnover ratio

+2.63

+2.48

HISTORY: Longest NCAA tournament appearance streaks in women's college basketball

Team Defense

 

Notre Dame

Baylor

Points allowed per game

64.2

55.1

Steals

332

280

Blocks

190

266

FG% allowed

37.1

31.6

3pt FG% allowed

28.6

29.9

They Said It

Kim Mulkey, Baylor head coach: “Well, they're defending national champions. They all average pretty much in double figures, except for probably in the playoffs, I think they have four or five averaging in double figures. They have bigs inside. They shoot the three ball, not like an Oregon, but they will shoot the three ball. They're athletic. I guess just the fact that they can score at all positions.”

Muffet McGraw, Notre Dame head coach: "They present a lot of problems. This is the first time we've played a team that has two outstanding post players. We've generally thought we had abnormal advantage in the post. That would be our game plan, to go inside. We do not feel that way. They have terrific players inside with Lauren Cox and Kalani... Two great shot-blockers in the back. Defensively they're really kind of an intimidating presence inside. I think that our guards are pretty good. I hope that our guards will be able to come out and play well because I don't know if we have mismatches necessarily, but I think once you get to this game, anything can happen."

Mitchell Northam is a graduate of Salisbury University. His work has been featured at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Orlando Sentinel, SB Nation, FanSided, USA Today and the Delmarva Daily Times. He grew up on Maryland's Eastern Shore and is now based in Durham, N.C.

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