Tuesday, April 3, 2012
Brittney Griner leads Baylor to NCAA's first 40-win season
By ESPN.com wire services
DENVER -- Notre Dame's trio of senior starters shrunk in the shadow of Brittney Griner.
The Irish lost the national championship for the second straight season Tuesday night, beaten by Baylor and its superstar center 80-61.
A year ago, Notre Dame let a late lead slip away in a six-point loss to Texas A&M in the title game, so they were eager for atonement. But the seniors who transformed Notre Dame's program and shook up the Big East during their careers in South Bend went out with a whimper.
Devereaux Peters was in foul trouble all night -- exactly what she said she couldn't afford to do against Griner -- and finished with seven points and three rebounds.
"Not really what you want to do the last game of your career," said Peters, who logged just 15 minutes.
Leading scorer Natalie Novosel missed all 11 of her shots, every one of them seemingly altered by Griner. Novosel scored five points, 10 below her average and 23 fewer than she had against Baylor in the WNIT final in November.
"It was just not my night," Novosel said.
Brittany Mallory, the shooting star on Notre Dame's semifinal victory against Connecticut, scored three points and injured her left shoulder on a hard fall to the floor in the final minutes.
"It's such a tough way for their career to end," Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said, sobbing.
Notre Dame's senior class had 117 wins, but Griner, with 26 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks, barely gave them a chance at No. 118.
The Irish hung tough for 25 minutes even as Griner was getting her buckets, boards and blocks in bunches. They had trimmed an early 14-point deficit to 42-39 when Peters picked up her fourth foul on a hard pick on Odyssey Simms and took a seat.
"It was very winnable," Novosel said. "We were lucky at halftime to only be down six. We wanted to come out and be the aggressors in the second half. That didn't happen."
Baylor, the first team ever to go 40-0, closed with a spectacular 38-22 run.