WACO, Texas (AP) — Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw was already prepared that 6-foot-8 Baylor phenom Brittney Griner would probably have her way inside against the Irish.
Griner did just that, scoring 32 points with 14 rebounds and six blocked shots. The problem was she wasn't alone for the top-ranked Lady Bears.
Point guard Odyssey Sims had one of her best overall games and Destiny Williams also had a double-double with 15 points and 13 rebounds for Baylor in a 94-81 victory over Notre Dame in a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup in the preseason WNIT championship game Sunday.
"The game was particularly disappointing because defensively we really played poorly," McGraw said. "We tried a couple of different looks on (Griner), but it didn't really matter. ... I was disappointed with the way we guarded the other players."
Griner and Baylor (4-0) have clearly established themselves as the No. 1 team — for now.
Notre Dame (3-1) has some work to do.
"We didn't play the kind of defense that we hope to play this year," McGraw said. "It was a good learning experience. ... It's great that it's in November, and we can look ahead to what we want to be, and know that we're not there now. I think we have that promise and we have that vision or our team moving forward, but really disappointed with the loss today."
But long before being the NCAA runner-up last season, Notre Dame lost an early-season game at Baylor.
Notre Dame had a pair of 25-point scorers in the same game for the first time since 2000. Natalie Novosel scored a career-high 28 points and Skylar Diggins, like Griner a preseason AP All-America pick, had 27.
Sims has 25 points, six assists, six steals 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.
The Lady Bears put the game away with a 14-3 run that was capped when Sims had a steal that she turned into a breakaway layup for a 70-58 lead with 9½ minutes left.
"Just motivated altogether," Sims said. "Playing against (Diggins), playing against the team, playing in front of the crowd, No. 1 versus No. 2. All of that put together."
There was then a feisty play with 1:40 left after Diggins, a preseason AP All-America pick like Griner, lost her dribble.
When Diggins 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 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.
" Odyssey is a very competitive player just like I am, and she was a teammate of mine. I don't think it was anything personal," Diggins said. "I think it's just both of us playing hard. ... Just a loose ball, you try to get it."
Sims agreed, and said she wished Diggins "the best the rest of the season."
They could meet again in March — or April.
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.
Kayla McBride, who had 11 points for the Irish, made two free throws with 15:48 left to cap a 15-6 run that cut the deficit to 53-51. Baylor's game-clinching spurt came a couple of minutes later.
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 McGraw finally 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.
Baylor led 47-36 at halftime, that close only after Novosel hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer after the Irish had missed their first 11 shots from long range.
"It was a great test for us," Novosel said about the matchup. "We know now we're not where we need to be, and we're going to move forward and learn some things."
- Brittney Griner
- Lady Bears
- Destiny Williams