With an almost easy 80-61 win on Tuesday night to secure the National Championship over Notre Dame, Baylor became the seventh women's team to run the gauntlet of an entire season without losing a game. They did it with ease and class on a night that was owned by Baylor's own Brittney Griner.
Griner, a 6-foot-8 woman basketball phenom, was all over the court on Tuesday. She blocked shots, grabbed rebounds and scored with a ferocity that Notre Dame had no answer for. For the night, Grinder had 26 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks, providing the same toughness and resolve she has brought all year to the most important game of the season.
"She'll go down as one of the greatest post players in the history of the game," Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said. "I'm so glad she got that ring."
"Brittney Griner comes to work every day," Mulkey added. "A lot of great players think they're all that and they half go through drills and they come to practice and they dog it. That child comes to work and brings her work pail every day."
For Griner, and for the rest of the team, it wasn't about personal accomplishments so much but about getting another ring for the coach they love, who has struggled so much during the tourney. Baylor head coach Milkey has Bell's palsy and was fighting with it throughout the tournament.
"It meant everything for us to get it for coach," said Griner. "She felt like she wasn't there for us, but we told her every second that we could hear here loud and clear, everything she was saying."
With the title win, Milkey puts herself farther into college sports history. She has now won a title as a player (at Louisiana Tech), an Olympic gold medal (in 1984) and two titles as a coach. Only five women's coaches have more than one championship at the top level of NCAA competition.
For the losing squad, Notre Dame, it was yet another disappointing end to a season that held so much promise. The Fighting Irish, for the second straight year, found themselves in the runner up position to the National Champion. Last season, the Irish lost to Texas A&M by six points.
In the end, Notre Dame had no answer for Griner, who always seemed to be there to stop any run made by the Irish and to get the game back in control for Baylor.
"They went on a run there," All-American Notre Dame point guard Skylar Diggins, who led the Irish with 20 points, said. "I just remember we cut it down to three and they went on a run. I saw 10, 12, 14, 16, 19. We couldn't get rebounds when they missed shots."
Both Diggins and Griner, who was selected the Associated Press player of the year and named the most outstanding player of the tournament, have pledged to forgo going pro to come back for their senior season.
Photo Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS
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