DENVER — Baylor is on the brink of perfection, and even a quiet night by Brittney Griner couldn’t stop the Lady Bears.
Griner was hounded and double-teamed, scoring only one basket in the second half Sunday. So her supporting cast jumped in and carried the unbeaten Lady Bears to the NCAA final with a 59-47 victory over Stanford.
Griner finished with 13 points and nine rebounds, setting up Baylor (39-0) for a rematch with fellow No. 1 seed Notre Dame on Tuesday. With a victory over the Irish, the Lady Bears would become the seventh women’s team to finish undefeated and the first squad in NCAA history to win 40 games in a season.
“We’re not the Brittney Griner show,” coach Kim Mulkey said. “Brittney Griner is the face of women’s basketball, and she deserves to be, but this team is bigger than Brittney. She will tell you that. Brittney Griner double- and triple-teamed allows other players on her team to have opportunities.”
Now, all that stands in the way of a perfect season is Notre Dame. Baylor and Notre Dame played in the preseason WNIT final, with the Lady Bears winning in Waco 94-81 on Nov. 17.
“It’s going to be a good game,” Griner said. “We beat them earlier in the season, but we’ve got to erase that. This is the game everybody wants.”
Baylor, in the national title game for the second time, has been focused on the mantra of “Unfinished Business” all season long. Every player is wearing a wristband with those two words on it. Mulkey said the team used the same motto the year it won its only championship in 2005. The Lady Bears had been knocked out the year before in a last-second loss.
Stanford (35-2) fell short in the Final Four for a fifth straight season, ending its school-record 32-game winning streak.
The Cardinal refused to let the 6-foot-8-inch Griner beat them, collapsing on her in the paint. The strategy worked for 20 minutes before the other Lady Bears got in a groove.
Trailing 31-29 early in the second half, Baylor went on an 11-1 run keyed by Jordan Madden. The junior guard had an acrobatic three-point play and then a layup that made it 40-32. Griner followed with her only basket of the half, hitting a tough baseline turnaround.
The Cardinal could only get within six after that, despite Nnemkadi Ogwumike’s best efforts. The 6-2 senior led Stanford with 22 points and nine rebounds. Coach Tara VanDerveer took her out with 30 seconds left and they shared a hug.
Lindy La Rocque of Las Vegas, who played in four Final Fours with the Cardinal, was scoreless in seven minutes in her final collegiate game.