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Griner, Baylor culminate perfect 40-0 season
Denver, CO (Sports Network) - The Baylor women's basketball team is in exclusive company. Its own.
The Lady Bears completed the first 40-0 basketball season in NCAA history on Tuesday by capturing the program's second national title with an 80-61 win over the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
Brittney Griner, the face of women's college basketball since the 6-foot-8 center stepped onto Baylor's campus three years ago, fittingly led the way with 26 points on 11-of-16 shooting to go with 13 rebounds and five blocks.
Odyssey Sims and Destiny Williams chipped in 19 and 12 points, respectively for the Lady Bears, who went wire-to-wire as the No. 1 team in the nation and went 13-0 against top-25 teams.
"Everybody stepped up," a humble Griner grinned. "That is one thing about this team that is so special, we just have different people that step up at different times."
Baylor won its six NCAA Tournament games by an average of 21 points.
The Fighting Irish (35-4) were led by Skylar Diggins' 20 points, but the team's second leading scorer, Natalie Novosel missed all 11 of her attempts from the floor and finished with five points -- 10 below her season average.
Notre Dame's starting center, Devereaux Peters, played only 15 minutes due to foul trouble, allowing the already formidable Griner more room to showcase her unmatched talent.
Peters picked up her fourth foul five minutes into the second half after the Irish cut their deficit to 42-39. It was as close as Notre Dame, also a No. 1 seed, got the rest of the way.
Griner's three-point play midway through extended the margin to 61-48, and Sims netted eight straight points a little later to jump-start a 14-0 run that essentially put the game away.
"I just remember we had cut it down to five or three, and then they went on a run," Diggins recalled. "We couldn't get stops. We couldn't get rebounds when we did make them miss shots."
Griner, the tournament's Most Outstanding Player, exited with 64 seconds left to a standing ovation -- which included fellow Bear and Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III.
Baylor owned a decisive 46-27 advantage on the glass and won the battle in the paint, 40-22 to become the seventh undefeated women's team to take home the title.
The Irish, who lost to Texas A&M in last year's finale, made just 36 percent of their shots and allowed the Bears to make 50 percent of theirs.
"Defense wins championships. Don't ever forget that," said Kim Mulkey, who was also head coach at Baylor for its only other title in 2005.
Baylor trailed, 9-8 four minutes into the game before scoring 12 of the next 13 points. The Lady Bears' biggest lead in the opening half was 29-15, but the Irish went on a 13-5 run over the last seven minutes to pull within six, 34-28, at the break.
04/03 23:56:11 ET