With a win, Baylor would become the seventh team to run through a season unbeaten, joining Connecticut _ which has done it four times, Tennessee and Texas. It would be the school’s second national championship. Baylor also won in 2005.
“Win or lose tomorrow we’re going to head back to Waco,” Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said. “Unfortunately, we’re 39-0 and you don’t want to lose that last game. We know that whoever beats us, just make sure that you didn’t beat yourself. Make sure that team was better than you that night. If you do that, you can’t fault your effort.”
The Lady Bears have used the same “unfinished business” mantra as the Irish after losing to Texas A&M in the regional final last season. Mulkey had the saying put up in the locker room, on notebooks and even handed out hundreds of those silicon wristband reminders to everyone associated with the program.
“I think it’s a testament to the players. Coaches can come up with mottos and motivational tactics, but it boils down to those players,” Mulkey said. “They have to have that feeling I had last year, don’t want to have it again. Both programs and teams have done that. They have more seniors than we do. They made it to the national championship game last year. I guess you’d say they have a little more experience getting to title game than we do.”
The two teams met earlier this season in Waco and Baylor came away with a 13-point victory. That was for the preseason WNIT title.
Griner was unstoppable. She had 32 points and 14 rebounds, making 14 of her 18 shots with five blocks. Odyssey Sims had 25 points in that win.
“They won the first matchup, but we’re too different teams now,” Diggins said. “We’ve both gotten a lot better.”
The biggest difference for Baylor is that the supporting cast has jumped in. While Griner and Sims had quiet nights in the Lady Bears’ 59-47 victory over Stanford in the national semifinals, other players stepped up.
While the Lady Bears were able to slowly pull away from the Cardinal, Notre Dame had to pull out a thrilling, 83-75 overtime victory over rival Connecticut. Seniors Natalie Novosel, Devereaux Peters and Brittany Mallory all made big plays to help the Irish.
Now they are one victory away from winning the school’s second national championship, joining the 2001 team.
“I would love for them to go out national champions,” McGraw said. “It’s really special. For this group, it’s been a special group as long as they’ve been here. We’ve treasured every moment this year and I’ll be sad to see them go.”