By Rachel Roach
Despite efforts from Notre Dame (5-3) in keeping sophomore Brittney Griner below her average of 23.3 points, she was still a threat, finishing the night with 21 points, eight rebounds and four blocks.
Griner, who leads Baylor (8-1) in scoring, says she’s become accustomed to pressure and sagging zone defenses like she saw Wednesday.
“I kind of see it every night,” Griner said.
Because of the pressure on Griner, junior Brooklyn Pope was able to have more freedom at the post and followed close behind with 20 points and a team-high 14 rebounds.
“I thought Brooklyn came to play tonight. I thought she was very aggressive and she played under control. She didn’t try to do too much. She just let the game come to her. She was very good,” head coach Kim Mulkey said.
Pope remains thankful for the playing time and appreciates the help she has received.
“I’m going to get through the hump of not playing. Coach [Kim] Mulkey works with me. She has shown patience with me by keeping me in the lineup and keeps trying me. I got that tonight; I played OK,” Pope said.
Freshman Odyssey Sims and sophomore Kimetria Hayden did the work for the Bears beyond the arc, scoring all four of the team’s three pointers, Sims with two and Hayden with one. Hayden finished the night 14 points followed by 11 from Sims.
The Lady Bears only lost the lead once early in the first half when they allowed the Fighting Irish to take a 7-6 advantage. But a combined effort by Griner and Pope put the Bears back in the lead. Griner made a free throw, tying the score at seven, and Pope gave the Lady Bears the lead for good after stealing the ball and driving for a layup.
While Baylor might have won the game, Mulkey was still disappointed with her team letting the Irish chip away at a large second-half lead.
“When you have a 22-point lead, you’ve got to learn how to extend the lead, take care of the basketball,” Mulkey said. “I want them to come up here and be bothered by the fact that we allowed it to be a closer game than it should have been.”
Notre Dame sophomore Skylar Diggins was a huge contributor to closing the margin in the second half. The fighting Irish went on a 17-2 run where Diggins scored 14 of those points with two 3-pointers and a fastbreak layup. Diggens led Notre Dame offensively and finished with 21 points.
But the Bears played tough defense accumulating 14 steals and forcing 22 Notre Dame turnovers on the night.
Fighting Irish head coach Muffet McGraw described the Lady Bears’ defensive pressure. “We turned it over a lot in the first half, and that put us in a gigantic hole. We worked our way out of it a little bit, but the turnovers in the first half and their offensive rebounds and [our] foul trouble – that hurt us a little bit too. It is disappointing.” McGraw said.
The Lady Bears next play Minnesota at home at 1 p.m. Sunday.