SOUTH BEND, Ind. – Nina Davis, her hoodie pulled over her head, was in tears in front of her locker.
Odyssey Sims, who closed out her spectacular senior season with another spectacular game, woman-ed up to answer questions in the interview room but then hid herself away in the bathroom.
Makenzie Robertson talked about taking off the Baylor jersey for the last time and the words caught in her throat.
For a freshman like Davis, a promising career that beckons didn't square with a sub-par performance.
"I'll never forget how this feels, it's a hurtful feeling," Davis said with a quivering voice.
For seniors Sims and Robertson, the end was a gut punch.
"There's no worse feeling in the world than when you're a senior and you take that uniform off for the last time. It's horrible," Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said. "It's all you've known all your life and you have to take it off for the last time. It's emotional."
Seasons that don't end with championships end with tears. The Lady Bears' NCAA Tournament run ended with an 88-69 loss to top-seeded Notre Dame Monday night in the Notre Dame Regional. The Fighting Irish are headed to Nashville. Baylor heads back to Waco to put away the uniforms until next season.
Baylor's fifth loss in 37 games was a "what if/what might have been" affair. Notre Dame put together one game-changing run – a 16-2 spurt midway through the first half – that came after Davis went to the bench with her second foul.
The Lady Bears shot just 33.8 percent and were outscored in the paint 46-28. Post players Davis, Sune Agbuke and Khadijiah Cave were a combined 7-of-29 from the field. Baylor missed at least 22 shots of the point-blank variety – layups, drives, post-ups, follow shots.
"Some of it could have been inexperience, some of it could have been nerves, some of it could have been Notre Dame's defense," Mulkey said.
Baylor faced its biggest halftime deficit of the season, 44-32, but quickly made it a game four minutes into the second half. Sims had all nine as the Lady Bears' pressure defense sparked a 9-2 run to start the second half and pull Baylor within 46-41.
"Our mindset was it was 0-0 going into the second half," Sims said. "We didn't look at the score or the time, we just told each other to stick together no matter what."
After the Irish stretched the lead back to double digits, Baylor again cut the margin to five (65-60) with 7:19 remaining. But Notre Dame, which made a season-high 30 free throws (double the number that Baylor made) scored its next six points from the line.
"We just couldn't get over the hump," Mulkey said. "We'd get close and then we'd put 'em at the foul line or they'd make a big bucket. But that's what good teams do."
Notre Dame's Jewell Loyd, who had 11 points during the 16-2 Irish first-half flurry, finished with 30. She also was the Notre Dame Regional's most outstanding player and was the main defender on Sims, who closed out her stellar career with 33 points and six assists but also had nine turnovers.
Sims, who earlier in the day was named a USBWA All-American for the third time, scored 1,054 points this season - nine points shy of the single season record in women's basketball. Her final shot as a college player was a meaningless 3-pointer with 28 seconds remaining that rimmed out – a metaphor for the game.
"Odyssey had a phenomenal senior year," Mulkey said. "Not only did she put up a lot of points, but she grew and matured off the floor and was a great leader. Some kids play basketball because they're tall, some play because they're good. It means something to Odyssey. She hates to lose and she loves the game."
Notre Dame improved to 36-0 and will play in the Final Four for the fourth consecutive season. The crowd of 8,774 was a sea of lime green shirts with maybe three dozen Baylor fans. The school pep band, spirit squad and a handful of administrators made up the minority of those in support of the Lady Bears.
"It's really unfortunate that we had to play such a big game on a home court," Robertson said. "I would have loved to have faced them on a neutral court. The crowd was loud, but we didn't do what we had to do, didn't play Baylor basketball."