Lady Bears win national championship game
Baylor Center Brittney Griner embraces Lady Bears basketball coach Kim Mulkey after winning the national championship game. (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Posted on April 3, 2012 at 11:20 PM
Wednesday, Apr 4 at 7:51 AM
DENVER -- Baylor became the first NCAA basketball team -- women or men -- to complete a 40-0 season by defeating Notre Dame 80-61 Tuesday in the NCAA women's championship.
Paced by 6-8 junior center Brittney Griner, the national player of the year, the Lady Bears became the seventh undefeated women's champion. Griner hit her first seven shots of the second half and finished with 26 points, 13 rebounds and five blocked shots.
Baylor went wire-to-wire as the No. 1 team and was the overall top seed in the tournament. The Fighting Irish (35-4) were the overall second seed.
Notre Dame and Baylor were fueled by memories of how last season ended. The Irish lost to Texas A&M in the national final, and the Lady Bears were knocked out as a No. 1 seed by A&M in the Elite Eight after beating the Aggies three times earlier in the season.
"We finally did it," Griner said of what went through her mind as the final seconds elapsed. "The unfinished business was over."
Baylor defeated Notre Dame 94-81 in November, the most points the Lady Bears allowed all season. The rematch was colored more by defense that produced ragged first-half shooting.
Baylor settled for a 34-28 advantage at the break. A 25-17 edge in rebounding and a 9-4 bulge at the foul line helped, as did the three fouls for Notre Dame's Devereaux Peters, limiting her to five minutes . Baylor shot 38.7% in the first 20 minutes to Notre Dame's 34.4%.
With Griner unstoppable, Baylor went on a 21-2 run midway through the second half to turn a six-point edge into an insurmountable 75-50 advantage. The Lady Bears finished with a 46-27 rebounding edge and outscored the Irish 40-22 in the paint.
"They went on a run and I saw 10 (points), 12, 14, 16, 19," said Skylar Diggins, who led Notre Dame with 20 points. "We couldn't get stops and we couldn't get rebounds."
It was the second NCAA title for coach Kim Mulkey and the Lady Bears, adding to the one in 2005. Muffet McGraw also was going for her second crown at Notre Dame. The Irish won in 2001.