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Irish stars gear up for rematch

DENVER — There probably has never been a duo more eager to face Baylor superstar Brittney Griner than Notre Dame post players Devereaux Peters and Natalie Achonwa.

The Fighting Irish (35-3) and Bears (39-0) meet tonight in the national championship, a rematch Peters and Achonwa have been dreaming of for months after their November meeting was such a mismatch.

The teams squared off in the preseason WNIT final, with the Bears winning in Waco 94-81 behind Griner's 32 points on 14-of-18 shooting, 14 rebounds and five blocks.

Peters, plagued by foul trouble, and Achonwa, hobbled by a balky right knee in her first game back from a torn meniscus, combined to make just 3 of 15 shots for six points.

Griner has Baylor on the cusp of history: No school in the NCAA has ever gone 40-0. The 6-foot-8 junior center who plays above the rim has changed the women's game.

Irish coach Muffet McGraw takes the challenge in stride.

"We're kind of perimeter-oriented," she said. "We like our guards to score a lot. I don't think it changes a lot for us. We don't jam the ball inside as much as some other teams do. So, I think we'll be able to run the stuff we have and maybe have to make that extra pass, which we've been pretty good at all year long.

"So, I think that's going to be the theme for us, is just getting her engaged and then trying to make a few extra passes."

Still, the Irish know Griner's going to get her share of blocks and baskets.

"She has a 7-foot-4 wingspan," Peters said. "It's inevitable."

This year, Griner has added a jump shot and impressive mobility to her already top-notch repertoire as she dominates at both ends of the court.

"Standing next to her is not so bad, but then when she puts her arms up, it's just a completely different world," Peters said. "She's just so long and athletic and she's done such a great job of finishing this year, much better than last year in being able to move around defenses and spin off and become way more mobile than she was. She's just become a great athlete."

Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said there's lots of room for growth in her game, but some say Griner is already the best female college hoopster ever.

"A lot of people get scared just from her standing inside and altering shots," Peters said. "Even if you're not driving, you'll think twice about shooting and that can mess up your shot. She changes the game a lot and we have to stay aggressive and keep going at her regardless."

Around the nation

AUBURN: Terri Williams-Flournoy, who led Georgetown to the past three NCAA Tournaments, is taking over as coach, replacing Nell Fortner.

OLE MISS: New coach Adrian Wiggins added Brett Frank as an associate head coach. Frank coached with Wiggins for nine years at Fresno State.

TENNESSEE: Veteran coach Mickie DeMoss is leaving Pat Summitt's staff to join the WNBA's Indiana Fever.

TEXAS: The board of regents authorized hiring a new coach, and the school moved quickly to end a short search that zeroed in on North Texas coach Karen Aston. A news conference is set for this morning.

Irish stars gear up for rematch 04/02/12 [Last modified: Monday, April 2, 2012 10:25pm]
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