SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Brittney Griner had 24 points and 14 rebounds, three other Baylor players scored in double figures and the third-ranked Lady Bears beat No. 5 Notre Dame 73-61 Wednesday night in a repeat of last season’s national championship game.
The Fighting Irish could do little to slow Griner, who was 10 of 16 from the floor. The Lady Bears (7-1), with all five starters back from the team that went 40-0 last season, used a 10-0 run late in the second half to pull away.
The Irish (5-1), with just two starters back, were simply no match, especially with All-America senior Skylar Diggins struggling on 4-of-19 shooting – with rapper Lil Wayne sitting courtside to cheer her on in the second half.
Odsyssey Sims returned after missing four games with a hamstring injury and added 16 points for Baylor. Brooklyn Pope had 14 points and Jordan Madden 12.
Freshman Jewell Loyd led Notre Dame with a season-high 24 points, Kayla McBride had 16 and Natalie Achonwa 11.
The Lady Bears dominated inside, outscoring the Irish 36-26 in the paint and outrebounding them 44-35. Baylor also held the Irish to 36-percent shooting while making 49 percent of its shots.
Diggins drove inside to give the Irish a 50-49 lead with 8:19 left, but Griner responded with a three-point play. After Diggins scored again, Madden hit a layup to spark a 10-0 run, which included six points from Sims.
Sims’ first basket during the spurt came on an inbound pass which she bounced off the back of Notre Dame’s Natalie Achonwa before grabbing the ball and scoring. She capped the run with another basket and the Irish never got closer than seven after that.
Lil Wayne showed up at halftime to cheer for Diggins and her teammates, with Diggins walking over to shake his hand in his front-row seat after a timeout. At the front row at the other end were members of the top-ranked Fighting Irish football team, who cheered loudly throughout. But despite the celebrities and a sellout crowd of 9,149, the Irish couldn’t knock off the defending national champions as the men did six days earlier against Kentucky on the same floor.
Notre Dame got off to a fast start, forcing nine turnovers in the first 12 minutes and opening a 20-11 lead when Loyd hit a 3-pointer. But a layup by Pope with 5:36 left ignited a 14-0 Baylor run. Pope scored eight points during the spurt and Griner added six, while the Irish missed six straight shots to allow the Lady Bears to open a 31-23 lead.
Baylor led 33-27 at the half, the same six-point margin the Bears led by at halftime in the championship game.