DENVER (AP) — Brittney Griner scored nine points and grabbed eight rebounds as Baylor jumped out to a 34-28 halftime lead over Notre Dame in the women's national championship game Tuesday night.
The Lady Bears moved 20 minutes closer to the first 40-win season in NCAA history. Even more importantly, they're attempting cut down the nets for the first time since 2005.
For the Fighting Irish, this is their second straight trip to the title game. They lost 76-70 to Texas A&M after leading at halftime last season.
The 6-foot-8 Griner got off to a slow start as Notre Dame blanketed her with as many three defenders. But the AP player of the year gradually picked up steam, helping the Bears build a lead that stretched to as many as 14 points.
The Irish used a late 13-4 run to claw back into the game.
Notre Dame was led in the first half by All-American Skylar Diggins, who had nine points. Devereaux Peters started strong, but picked up her second foul at 17:20 and had to sit for a stretch. She later was ticketed for another. Diggins also has two fouls.
The teams met in the preseason WNIT final on Nov. 17, with the Lady Bears winning in Waco, Texas, 94-81 behind Griner's gem of a game. That night the junior center scored 32 points, grabbed 14 rebounds and blocked five shots.
All season long, both Baylor and Notre Dame have focused on the slogan "Unfinished Business." Griner & Co. even wore wristbands with the phrase on it. Coach Kim Mulkey said the team used the same motto the year the Lady Bears won their only championship.
The Irish are a senior-laden team trying to win the school's first national basketball title since 2001.
Notre Dame is trying to do something that no other team has done in the NCAA era: knock off an unbeaten squad in the title game. The previous six undefeated teams reaching this stage ended up winning.
Baylor can become just the seventh team to go through a season unbeaten. UConn accomplished the feat four times, while Texas and Tennessee have each done that once.
Before the game, Griner entertained the crowd with a series of dunks, including a one-handed throw down, a double-pump slam and another in which she hung on rim.