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ND Women’s Basketball: Too much to Bear

Laura Myers | Thursday, December 2, 2010

In the end, Brittney Griner and No. 2 Baylor proved to be too much for Notre Dame.

The six-foot-eight center played all 40 minutes and scored 21 points as she and the Bears defeated the Irish 76-65 in Waco, Tex.

It was the third loss to a top-15 team for No. 16 Notre Dame (5-3) this season.

“It is disappointing because we thought we played our game for about 15 minutes, and they are a great team,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said in a post-game press conference. “They are a Final Four team and I thought they just really hung together when we made our run and showed a lot of poise.”

After being down by as many as 22 points in the second half, Notre Dame went on a 12-0 run to close the gap to 56-49 with just under 10 minutes to go. Sophomore guard Skylar Diggins scored eight points during the run and finished with 21 on the night.

Five minutes later, freshman Kayla McBride hit two free throws to make the score 65-59.

“The gamer in us kicked in. The heart finally showed up. We wanted to win,” Diggins said. “I think in the first half we were playing light and then finally we started to pick it up like we need to get up.”

But the six-point difference was as close as the Irish would get.

Notre Dame and Baylor (8-1) were tied at seven points each after nearly six minutes when the Bears went on an 8-2 run to make it 15-9. Baylor continued to pull away and led 38-24 at the end of the first half.

Diggins’ 21 points led the Irish. She also had five assists and four steals on the night and played 39 of the game’s 40 minutes.

“She is obviously our go-to player,” McGraw said. “She played like an All-American today and had a great game in a big game on the road. I am just proud of the way she played and really kept us in the game. She did everything thing she could to win the game for us.”

The Irish had a significant difference in fouls, 27-12, and put the Bears into the double bonus in both halves.

Junior forward Devereaux Peters ran into foul trouble early, with two fouls after just four minutes of play. She stayed on the bench for the rest of the first half.

Junior guard Erica Solomon fouled out with 2:47 to go in the game after a nine-rebound performance to lead her team. Junior guard Natalie Novosel fouled out with 36 seconds left after scoring 12 points and grabbing four steals.

Solomon has become a major presence for Notre Dame after her performance in the WBCA Classic over Thanksgiving earned her all-tournament honors.

While Notre Dame was guarding Griner, Baylor redshirt sophomore forward Brooklyn Pope became the go-to player for the Bears. She finished with 20 points and 14 rebounds on the night.

“I think definitely in the first half [Pope] took advantage of that and she drove a lot,” Diggins said. “We were playing off of her and she got a whole lot of layups in the first half. I think that was huge for them. In the second half we tried to contain her a little bit, but I think we dug ourselves a deep whole by not guarding her.”

Notre Dame faces Purdue Sunday at the Purcell Pavilion in a game that will be nationally televised on ESPN2. Tip off is scheduled for 2 p.m.