Notre Dame comes up short, losing 80-61 to Baylor

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“It’s such a tough way for their career to end,” McGraw said, sobbing.

The Irish hung tough for 25 minutes even as Griner was getting her buckets, boards and blocks in bunches. They had trimmed an early 14-point deficit to 42-39 when Peters picked up her fourth foul on a hard pick on Odyssey Simms and took a seat.

Baylor closed with a spectacular display of amazing athleticism by Griner and precise shooting by her supporting cast in a dominant 38-22 closing run.

Throughout their season, the Irish were driven by the mantra “unfinished business,” but so was Baylor, which was dumped by Texas A&M in the regional finals last year. The Lady Bears even had the mantra printed up on notebooks, banners and bright green wristbands as a constant reminder that they needed to take care of business this time around.

They did, denying the Irish their second national title and first since 2001.

Griner scratched out the “Un” in a sign on the court as confetti rained down on the Lady Bears.

Notre Dame didn’t get to ditch the motto.

While Griner is coming back for her senior season and a shot at becoming a two-time champ, the path back to the Final Four is a lot more arduous for the Irish, who are graduating several seniors.

The Irish have won four of their last five games against perennial power UConn, including an 83-75 thriller in overtime in the semifinals Sunday night, and they’ve handed Geno Auriemma’s Huskies their only two losses in 22 NCAA tournament games since 2009.

Yet, they return just two starters next season in guards Skylar Diggins and Kayla McBride, who kept the Irish close for much of this game and finished with 20 and 11 points, respectively.

The Irish trailed 34-28 at halftime and pulled within three five minutes into the second half before Peters picked up her fourth foul.

“Our halftime was actually kind of upbeat,” Mallory said. “We were only down six and we didn’t play a great half. The second half has been our half all year.”

Not on this night.

Playing mostly zone and doubling Griner was “fairly effective in the first half,” McGraw said. “In the second half when we got into foul trouble it destroyed our game plan. In the second half we were afraid to foul. When she got the ball we didn’t lean on her and she shot over us. She made great shots, she’s a great player. She was unstoppable.

“It would have been great to see Devereaux play 39 minutes, but I don’t think it would have changed a lot. (Griner is) one of a kind.”

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