Notre Dame comes up short, losing 80-61 to Baylor
DENVER (AP) - This was not the way the spectacular senior class that transformed Notre Dame’s program and shook up the Big East wanted to end their college careers.
The school’s trio of senior starters went out with a whimper Tuesday night in an 80-61 loss to Baylor and the Lady Bears’ towering center, Brittney Griner.
Leading scorer Natalie Novosel didn’t make a single basket and only scored five points, 10 below her average and 23 fewer than she had against Baylor in November.
“It was just not my night,” Novosel said.
Nor was it Devereaux Peters’ or Brittany Mallory’s.
Peters ended up a sideline spectator for most of the night because of foul trouble, finishing with just seven points and three rebounds while logging only 15 minutes.
“Not really what you want to do the last game of your career,” she said.
Mallory, the shooting star in Notre Dame’s semifinal win over Connecticut, came crashing back to earth with just three points and then hit the floor so hard in the closing minutes that she, too, had to take a breather on the bench.
“It was a tough loss,” Mallory said, “but it was a great year.”
Indeed, the Irish went 35-4 and once again beat Big East bully UConn in the national semifinals only to once again come up short of cutting down the nets.
They were hoping to deny the Lady Bears an unbeaten season and a shot at history _ Baylor is the first team in NCAA history to go 40-0.
Instead, Notre Dame became the third team to lose in back-to-back championship games, joining Tennessee (2003 and `04) and Auburn, which dropped three straight from 1988-90.
A year ago, they let a late lead slip away in a 76-70 loss to Texas A&M.
“It hurts no matter how much you lose by,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “The feeling last year was different, we let it slip away. This one got out of hand. There was frustration everyone didn’t play as well as they could have.”
Notre Dame’s senior class had 117 wins, but Griner, with 26 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks, barely gave them a chance at No. 118.