Game Notes: Women’s NCAA Finals
A running diary of the Baylor-Notre Dame showdown.
by Cub Buenning | @cubbuenning
-For a team that already was a major mismatch in terms of size, Notre Dame is quickly hampered by the second foul to Devereaux Peters, less then three minutes into the game. Brittney Griner’s size was partially stifled on Sunday night against an intimidating front line from Stanford that had several pieces at 6-3 or above. Not the case for the Fighting Irish.
-Notre Dame is already showing the guts that won them that wild semifinal game over UConn on Sunday night.
-This is one of the best point guard battles that you could possibly dream up with ND’s Skylar Diggins and Odyssey Sims from Baylor. Both are full-court players that can lock up on the defensive end just as easily as they could drop 30 on an opponent. This is potentially a budding rivalry that could manifest itself in the WNBA for the next decade.
-The Irish are opting for a variation on the defense Stanford employed the other day. The Cardinal went with a bracket-defender a la a zone nickel back in football always leaving someone open. Tonight, it appears ND is simply packing it in a tight 2-3 zone.
-Griner is starting to get easy baskets around the hoop. Yes, they are size-aided, but trust me: Keeping the ball high and finishing around the hoop is something all “big men” coaches wish they could get their players to consistently accomplish.
-At the under-12 break, Baylor is up 16-9. Getting points in the paint, just as I would imagine, Head Coach Kim Mulkey designed. There is no real reason why the Bears should be settling for perimeter jumpers tonight.
-People talk about Griner’s defensive impact as an interior force, but I think the freedom she allows her teammates to take make the Bears a sneaky defensive powerhouse. They can take chances and push the envelope knowing that #42 is back there.
-Diggins drains a three to make a once ten-point advantage down to five with nine left in the first half. It seems that she is struggling a bit to get control of this game’s pace and direction.
-Baylor prompting scores on their next three possessions and make it 12 at the under-8.
-I wonder if Irish Head Coach Muffit McGraw has some raw 6-6 freshman at the end of the bench that she can bring in to muck it up in the paint. Although, fouling Britney does little good, as she hits at an 80 percent clip from the free-throw line.
-Taking care of the defensive glass (mainly weakside) is a classic challenge for any team playing a 2-3 zone. Notre Dame is not “finding a body.”
The under-4 timeout sees the game tighten a bit as the Irish start finding ways to get easy baskets. Baylor is still leading 31-23.
-The last four minutes go the way of the Irish and the Baylor lead is just six at the break, 34-28. There is plenty of space for both teams to make improvements and adjustments. I just hope the next 20 minutes are more like ND/UConn and less like Stanford/Baylor.
-Baylor needs to really work the gaps in the Notre Dame zone. Got a bit sloppy in the half-court during the end of the first half. Were up 14, now just 6.
-McGraw keeps Peters on the bench to start the second half. That is a shot of confidence from the coach to the rest of her team.
-Natalie Novasel, one-half of the nation’s best backcourt is not delivering. That could not have been uttered probably ever in her illustrious four-year career in South Bend.
-Baylor has shown great resolve answering all of Notre Dame’s runs. Most of the action is centered around Griner. Young tall basketball players should take note of her ability to keep the ball high and keep her stroke and form the same. Don’t get it twisted; this is a skill that is lost on even most professional players.
-Brit is hitting shots from all angles now, despite the defensive scheme. Builds the lead to 13 almost single-handedly.
-Sky is doing her damnest to keep the Irish in this game. Not a lot of help from her teammates, but she is showing no fear.
-This game is turning into the mismatch I feared. Notre Dame simply has no defensive answer for Griner and they are limited on offense, again, due to the presence of Griner.
-Still plenty of time left, but this game is already out of hand, as Baylor puts the difference at 20! Game over.
-Forty wins, zero losses is the final tally for the Baylor Bears in a historic season. With Griner, a junior and Sims a sophomore, I would expect nothing less than another Final Four run from Mulkey’s team next year.
-Despite reports from the player herself shooting down the notion, I still have to wonder if Griner might feel compelled to forego her senior season (now that she has a title) and begin her professional career. The LA Sparks do have the first pick in the draft this year….. hhhmmmm… Candace and Britney? Damn.