Saturday, February 17, 2018
Sports

Baylor, Notre Dame advance to women's NCAA championship game

DENVER — One win from perfection.

Brittney Griner was constantly hounded and double-teamed, scoring one basket in the second half. So the Baylor supporting cast jumped in and carried the unbeaten Bears to the national championship game.

Griner finished with 13 points and nine rebounds to lead Baylor to a 59-47 win over Stanford on Sunday night and into the NCAA final against Notre Dame.

"We're not the Brittney Griner show," Bears coach Kim Mulkey said. "Brittney Griner is the face of women's basketball, and she deserves to be, but this team is bigger than Brittney. She will tell you that. Brittney Griner double- and triple-teamed allows other players on her team to have opportunities."

Baylor (39-0) is one win from becoming the seventh team to finish undefeated and the first in NCAA history to win 40.

The top-seeded Bears faced the Irish in the preseason WNIT final, with Baylor winning in Waco 94-81 on Nov. 17.

"It's going to be a good game," Griner said. "We beat them earlier in the season, but we've got to get ready because this is the game they really want. So it's going to be laid out on the floor."

Stanford (35-2) fell short in the Final Four for the fifth straight season, ending a school-record 32-game winning streak.

Cardinal players refused to let the 6-foot-8 Griner beat them, collapsing on her in the paint. The strategy worked for 20 minutes before the other Bears started making shots.

Trailing 31-29 early in the second half, the Bears went on an 11-1 run keyed by Jordan Madden. The junior guard had an acrobatic three-point play then a layup that made it 40-32. Griner followed with her only basket of the half, hitting a tough baseline turnaround that capped the burst.

The Cardinal could only get within six the rest of the game despite Nnemkadi Ogwumike's best efforts. The senior led Stanford with 22 points and nine rebounds. Coach Tara VanDerveer took her out with about 30 seconds left and gave her a long embrace.

The 6-foot-2 forward did all she could to keep the Cardinal in the game but got little help. Her younger sister, Chiney, who had such a strong sophomore season, was ineffective. She fouled out midway through the second half with just four points.

NOTRE DAME 83, UCONN 75 OT: The Irish are back in the title game thanks to Skylar Diggins' steady leadership and Brittany Mallory's clutch shooting.

Diggins scored 19 and Mallory hit two big 3-pointers in overtime for Notre Dame (35-3). The two hooked up for a game-turning play in overtime when Diggins stood her ground on a fast break, blocked the shot to prevent the Huskies (33-5) from retaking the lead, then fed Mallory for her second important 3.

"That was game-saving. That was huge," Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. "That would have turned it around if they made that layup. She sprinted the floor, made that huge play. It gave us such a big momentum lift, and Britt hitting that 3 made it a huge play."

Notre Dame also beat Connecticut in the semifinals last year but stumbled 48 hours later, losing to Texas A&M in the title game in Indianapolis.

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