The Lady Bears traveled to Notre Dame tonight and proved their championship win last year was deserved.
In a rematch of the game between national champion No. 3 Baylor and No. 5 Notre Dame, Baylor reigned once again with a 73-61 win over the Fighting Irish.
Baylor post Brittney Griner registered a double-double on the night with 24 points and 14 rebounds. Three other Baylor players also scored in double digits.
The Lady Bears were down early in the first half, but quickly stepped back into the game and were finally able to put it away with a layup from guard Jordan Madden. The score, with seven minutes left, was the start of a 10-0 run by Baylor.
“We just stayed in the flow,” Griner said. Don’t change anything just because your shots aren’t falling. They’re going to fall eventually.”
The Lady Bears benefited from the return of guard Odyssey Sims after she missed four games with a hamstring injury. She returned just in time to face long-time opponent, Notre Dame guard Skylar Diggins – a rivalry that dates back before their college careers. Sims totaled 16 points for the Lady Bears.
“She’s played Skylar (Diggins) four times and won every ball game,” Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey said about Sims’ performance tonight. “Odyssey (Sims) didn’t have one of her best games either, but she never stopped being tough on the floor and she never stopped guarding people.”
Even Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw noticed the intensity and charisma Sims brings the Baylor team and understands she must prepare her team accordingly if Sims is on the court.
“When she’s not in the game, you don’t really have to guard them very much from the perimeter,” McGraw said. “So just having her on the court stretches the defense to her side a little more.”
Baylor, which returned all five of last year’s championship starters, was too dominant for the Irish to compete against. With just two starters returning from last year’s team, including Diggins, the Irish were held to 26 points in the paint and only 35 rebounds. Baylor held the Irish to 36 percent shooting while scoring 49 percent of its own shots.
Following Griner and Sims in scoring for the Lady Bears were forward Brooklyn Pope with 14 and Madden with 12 points.
Although Baylor dominated the offense, Mulkey made sure to take notes as she watched the Notre Dame team play. One thing in particular that caught her eye was Notre Dame freshman Jewell Loyd.
“She’s a tremendous jump shooter,” Mulkey said. “Not many can take it off the dribble and shoot a jump shot. She’s a special talent.”
Loyd led the Irish with a season-high 24 points. Kayla McBride (16 points) and Natalie Achonwa (11 points) were the only other players besides Loyd to score for Notre Dame.
Although a loss was not the desired outcome, McGraw was more satisfied with the loss than expected. She was encouraged by the fact that her inexperienced players didn’t seem to have as much trouble against Baylor as her team did last year.
“I think we maybe learned that we’re better than we think we are,” McGraw said. “That should have given us a little more confidence.” -- Savannah Pullin