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Amna Subhan | | March 9, 2023

10 of the greatest women's basketball national championship games in history

Watch the final seconds from every March Madness women’s title game

Since the first NCAA women's basketball tournament in 1982, the championship game has seen it all — blowouts, thrillers and everything in between. We took a look at every game and narrowed down the list to 10 of the greatest title games in history.

Listed in chronological order, by date:

1. 1983 – USC 69, Louisiana Tech 67

Just the second-ever women’s basketball NCAA title game proved to be one of the best. Louisiana Tech won the inaugural title in 1982. The Lady Techsters looked for more the following year, but ran into Southern California. 

Literally. The game hinged on a deciding foul as Kim Mulkey was called for charging with 9 seconds left and a chance to tie up the 69-67 scoreboard. 

The ball was sent to the other end, and the Trojans won its first title. Cheryl Miller was just a freshman at the time; Miller led her team with 27 points and nine rebounds. Paula McGee contributed 17 points and six rebounds. 

1983 women's NCAA tournament championship game

2. 1991 — Tennessee 70, Virginia 67 OT

The first-ever overtime played for the national title came in 1991 when Tennessee’s Pat Summitt was on the hunt for her third championship. 

Tennessee forced overtime after trailing by five points with 1:15 left to play. Dena Head steadily scored the final five needed — including the game-tying free throws — to keep the Volunteers in the game. 

In overtime the Vols took control, and the rest is history. 

The Lady Vols overcame a Dawn Staley-led Virginia team that caught them in the tournament the year before. Both Staley and Head led their respective teams with 28 points. 

Tennessee became the first women’s basketball program to win three championships. Summitt said before the game if she got three — that’s all she need, she could retire then. Summitt kept it rolling and won five more. 

3. 1993 — Texas Tech 84, Ohio State 82

Two decades ago, Sheryl Swoopes lifted Texas Tech over Ohio State setting several records that still stand today. 

Swoopes scored 47 points, notching the all-time scoring record in a — men's or women's — championship game. She also broke the record for most points in a half (24), most made field goals (16), highest free throw percentage (11-11) and most points scored in the Women's Final Four (78). 

Ohio State kept it close throughout. With just over two minutes left, the Buckeyes scored to trail 73-75. Then the Lady Raiders turned to, who other than, Swoopes. She scored five points in the final two minutes to lift Texas Tech despite Ohio State's last-second efforts. 

The title marked the first and only national championship for Texas Tech, cementing Swoopes in both program and NCAA history. 

4. 1994 — North Carolina 60, Louisiana Tech 59

March Madness is the most fun when nails are bitten and hearts are pounding. North Carolina beating Louisiana Tech at the buzzer had all of that. 

With 0.7 left on the clock, Louisiana Tech led 59-57 looking to win its third national title, but not on Charlotte Smith's watch.

The Tar Heels inbounded the ball under their own basket. Tonya Sampson cut through the paint drawing three defenders including Smith's as she bolted to the 3-point line. Call it a lack of communication, a perfectly-time cut or just a moment of fate — Smith found herself alone above the arc. The ball left her fingertips with 0.3 left, the buzzer sounded and it went in. 

Smith finished the game with 20 points and 23 rebounds, 19 and 13 in the second half. 

The shot called the Tar Heels' first and only championship. clipping

5. 1995 — UConn 70, Tennessee 64

UConn celebrates first national title

 In 1995 two women’s college basketball coaching icons UConn’s Geno Auriemma and Tennessee’s Summitt went head-to-head in the national title game for the first time. 

Auriemma’s squad bested the Volunteers 70-64 in his first of 11 championships thus far. Summitt had already won three and would go on to win eight total. This game was just the second overall meeting between the programs — and mere months after the first. 

The Huskies won in both matches, but the rivalry was cemented to continue to this day. 

6. 2006 — Maryland 78, Duke 75 OT

The second-largest comeback in championship history happened in the second overtime game in history between Maryland and Duke. 

Duke swung first taking a 10-point lead at the half. The Blue Devils held their largest of 13 with 15:01 left, but a lead is never safe in the NCAA tournament. The Terrapins began their run to force overtime. 

With five seconds left, Kristi Toliver tied the game 70-70 off a wild 3-pointer. Then it was Toliver in overtime to give the Terps their first lead since 2-1 early in the first half. The fearless freshman had 16 points to tie her teammates, Shay Doron and Laura Harper. 

7. 2014 — UConn 79, Notre Dame 58 

UConn celebrates eighth national title

Only one time in women's basketball history has an undefeated team faced another undefeated opponent for the national title. UConn (39-0) entered the ring on one end and Notre Dame (37-0) slid through the ropes on the other. 

However, one championship into the Huskies' dominant four-peat, UConn took over early leading the Irish by double-digits at the half and never relented. In her sophomore season, Breanna Stewart led with 21 points and nine rebounds. Stefanie Dolson contributed a huge performance of 17 points, 16 rebounds and seven assists.

In the end, that UConn squad finished 40-0 and became the eighth undefeated national champion in history. All the while the Huskies edged out Tennessee with nine national titles for the most ever. 

8. 2018 — Notre Dame 61, Mississippi State 58

What’s better than completing the biggest comeback in championship history? Arike Ogunbowale can answer that — sealing the title with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer. 

Notre Dame trailed by 15 points to Mississippi State in the third quarter but overcame the deficit with a 16-1 run in the second half. It was tied at 58-58 before the game-winning shot outdid the Bulldogs 61-58. 

The Irish won the program’s first national championship in 17 years after a series of national title runner-up efforts four times in five years. 

Jessica Shepard led Notre Dame in scoring with 19 points, and Ogunbowale followed with 18 points. Ogunbowale didn’t have a great shooting night. She shot just over 28% from the field and made just one basket from the arc, but that’s all she needed. 

9. 2019 — Baylor 82, Notre Dame 81

Following Notre Dame's dramatics in 2018 followed another thrilling finish, but not in favor of the Irish. 

This time the drama unfolded when Baylor lost one of its star players Lauren Cox to a knee injury in the third quarter and saw its 17-point lead dwindle. History was on the verge of repeating itself one year later.

A huge Irish comeback and the ball was in the hands of Ogunbowale at the end, but history didn't quite complete its circle. Ogunbowale missed the first of two free throws that could've tied the game. 

Instead, the Bears' Chloe Jackson was lauded for championship heroics, hitting the game-winning shot with 3.9 left to cap off Baylor's 37-1 season. Kim Mulky won her third national title.

10. 2021 — Stanford 54, Arizona 53

The 2021 national championship was a different one. It was the first one in almost two years following the cancellation of the 2020 NCAA tournament. And it didn't disappoint with tying the smallest margin of victory in history. 

Stanford pulled out its first title in 29 years since Tara VanDerveer's squad won it in 1992. 

Haley Jones led the Cardinal with 17 points and eight rebounds. Aari McDonald scored a game-high 22 points for the Wildcats including nine in the fourth quarter, but McDonald couldn't knock down the final shot with a second left, leaving Stanford champions as the final buzzer rang. 

Improbable was written all over this title game. Two Pac-12 teams met in the final game for the first time in history. Arizona made its first Final Four in program history, and a No. 3 seed, no less.


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