|Baylor center Brittney Griner (42) blocks a drive to the basket by Notre Dame guard Skylar Diggins, right, in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the women's Preseason NIT on Sunday, Nov. 20, 2011, in Waco, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)|
Griner leads No. 1 Baylor over No. 2 Notre Dame
WACO, Texas—Brittney Griner had 32 points and 14 rebounds while Baylor established itself as the clear No. 1 team for now with a 94-81 victory over No. 2 Notre Dame in the preseason WNIT championship game Sunday.
The Lady Bears (4-0) put the game away with a 14-3 run that was capped when Odyssey Sims had a steal that she turned into a breakaway layup for a 70-58 lead with 9 1/2 minutes left.
While both teams know the national championship won't be determined until four months from now, the early No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown provided an indication of what may be to come for Griner and the Lady Bears.
Sims had 25 points, six steals and six assists, and only two turnovers in 38 minutes after she wasn't in the starting lineup for a reason that coach Kim Mulkey wouldn't specify -- or allow Sims to address.
Skylar Diggins, like Griner a preseason AP All-America pick, had 27 points. Natalie Novosel led the Irish (3-1) with a career-high 28 points.
There was a feisty play with 1:40 left when Diggins lost her dribble. When she tried to recover the ball from the floor, she had her arm unintentionally around Sims' neck. Sims jumped up clearly angry, then went to the sideline where coach Kim Mulkey gave her a quick hug to try to settle her down. But Sims was assessed a technical foul.
Diggins and Sims were teammates on USA Basketball World University Games gold medal-winning team in China this summer. Notre Dame's Novosel and Devereaux Peters were also on that team.
After the game, Diggins said she and Sims are both competitive players who were playing hard and that the sequence was nothing personal. Sims reiterated that when she came in a few minutes later.
The Lady Bears still have two more huge tests before Christmas and their always tough Big 12 schedule after that. They play at No. 3 Tennessee next Sunday and host No. 4 UConn on Dec. 18.
It was Baylor's second 1 vs. 2 game, but its first as the No. 1 team after losing 65-64 at top-ranked UConn last November. The Irish were in their third such game, the previous two coming against the Huskies in 2001, when Notre Dame lost as the No. 1 team and then won as the No. 2 team.
This was the 47th women's basketball 1 vs. 2 game. UConn had played in 14 of the past 19 since 1999, winning 12 of them. The Huskies were the No. 1 team, and the winner, in each of the previous five.
Griner made 14 of 18 field goals and had her 29th career double-double, and third this season, and also had five blocks. Destiny Williams had 15 points and 13 rebounds for the Lady Bears.
Kayla McBride, who had 11 points for the Irish, made two free throws with 15:48 left to cap a 15-6 runs that cut the deficit to 53-51.
Notre Dame had an early 10-6 lead after Brittany Mallory went around Griner for a reverse layup.
After Griner and Diggins traded baskets, Sims hit a 3-pointer and Griner had a defensive rebound and the Lady Bears got the first lead when Sims passed to Destiny Williams for a 13-12 lead with 12:53 left in the first half.
That was during a furious pace when the game's first stop in action didn't come until Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw called a timeout with 11:33 left after a putback by Williams for a 17-14 Baylor lead. The first two media timeouts were caught up over the next 30 seconds.
The Irish were within 19-18 when Diggins passed to Novosel for a reverse layup before the Lady Bears went on an 11-2 run capped by a layup and two free throws by Sims. Baylor led 47-36 at halftime.