- Mechelle Voepel covers the WNBA, women’s college basketball, and other college sports for espnW. Voepel began covering women’s basketball in 1984, and has been with ESPN since 1996.
TAMPA, Fla. — Baylor junior forward Lauren Cox injured her left leg in the third quarter of the women’s basketball national championship game with Notre Dame and had to leave the court in a wheelchair. But despite a comeback by the Irish with Cox out, the Lady Bears held on to win 82-81 for Baylor’s third NCAA title.
“They were telling me they were going to do this for me,” Cox said of what her teammates told her when she returned to the bench in the fourth quarter. “I’m so proud of this team and the people who stepped up tonight. We’re bringing this championship back to Waco.”
Cox was injured under Notre Dame’s basket with 1:22 left in the third quarter and Baylor leading 62-50. She had eight points, eight rebounds and two assists when she left the game. Baylor had 42 points in the paint before Cox’s injury but only 12 points in the paint after she left the game, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Cox returned to the Baylor bench on crutches with a brace on the knee with 4:55 left in the game and the score tied 74-74. She had to watch the rest of the way, but her teammates made sure she got to celebrate.
Baylor coach Kim Mulkey was emotional during the trophy presentation and was asked to describe the roller coaster of emotion she experienced Sunday.
“I think you describe it by the tears I am shedding right now, it’s pretty simple. I just hate to see young people get injured. It seems like we’ve had major injuries late in the season. Kristy Wallace last year, Lauren Cox in the midst of a national championship game. How did we win that without that kid? I have no idea. But I am gonna tell you this, all of the credit goes to those kids right there. They never ever stop playing hard,” she said.
Asked after the game the severity of her injury, Cox told ESPN’s Holly Rowe that she was unsure.
Cox had 21 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists in Baylor’s 72-67 semifinal victory over Oregon on Friday.