Baylor, Notre Dame Reach NCAA Women's Final

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In NCAA women's basketball tournament action, two semi final games were held Sunday. Notre Dame and Baylor will square off in the final which will be played Tuesday night. Baylor is trying to complete a historic undefeated season.


It's championship time in Division One college basketball. Tonight in New Orleans, Kansas and Kentucky play for the men's title. And we'll hear more about that in just a few minutes. First, the women's championship game is now also set. It will be Baylor against Notre Dame. Baylor is trying to complete an historic undefeated season. Last night, the two teams played their semi-final games and advanced. In Notre Dame's case, barely.

NPR's Tom Goldman reports from the Women's Final Four in Denver.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Familiarity may breed contempt between Big East rivals Notre Dame and Connecticut. But last night, it also bred edge-of-your-seat basketball. The teams' fourth meeting this season was close throughout. In the second half, the Irish tried to pull away several times but UConn kept finding ways to close the gap. They did that and more at the end of regulation time.


GOLDMAN: When UConn junior guard Kelly Faris stepped to the line for two free throws and made them with 11.8 seconds left it completed an eight-to-nothing UConn run, gave the Huskies a 67-65 lead. And it sure seemed like they were headed to the championship game. But you never want to exhale when Notre Dame point guard, Skylar Diggins, grabs the ball.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Diggins at mid court, eight seconds. The leaner, it rolls away. Rebound, Novosel. She got it to go.


GOLDMAN: As heard on ESPN, Diggins miss turned into Natalie Novosel's rebound and put back – tie score, as regulation time ended.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Dunks it down low - no shot.


GOLDMAN: Despite that finish, UConn seemed to have the momentum going into overtime although no one apparently told fighting Irish guard Brittany Mallory.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Here's Mallory, a three - yes.

GOLDMAN: Mallory's two three-point bombs in overtime were the daggers in Notre Dame's eventual 83-to-75 win. Mallory missed all four of her three-point attempts in regulation time, but was the picture of calm as she launched in OT.

BRITTANY MALLORY: Took a deep breath and let it go, and was thinking to myself this one's going in. And finally, they both went in and I was so happy.


MALLORY: I couldn't believe it. I was so proud. I was so happy.

GOLDMAN: So happy she almost wept, she said later. UConn post player Stephanie Dolson did, as the final seconds wound down, prompting her teammate Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis to shout, Come on, Stephanie, don't cry.

There were no tears in the nightcap. Baylor hammered out a rather methodical and anticlimactic win over Stanford, 59-to-47. The buzz was that Stanford had the best shot to derail the Lady Bears juggernaut, 38-and-0 going into the game, shooting for the first ever 40 win season in NCAA history.

While the cardinal post players, sisters Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike, hounded Baylor super center Britney Griner into a sub-par statistical night – 13 points, nine rebounds, only two blocks – Baylor showed the basketball world what head coach Kim Mulkey has been saying all along and repeated last night

KIM MULKEY: Brittney Griner is the face of women's basketball right now, and we embrace that. She deserves that. And its great recognition for Baylor, but our team is not just Brittney Griner

GOLDMAN: It's also point guard Odyssey Sims, 11 points last night. Senior Terran Condrey, 13 points. Forward Destiny Williams, 10 rebounds. So it seems Baylor is a team of destiny. In its way, Notre Dame, which hopes the luck of the Irish is more than a saying tomorrow night.

Tom Goldman, NPR News, Denver.

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