DENVER (AP) — Brittney Griner's place in women's basketball history is secure. Blocking layups, snagging rebounds, hitting shots over two and three helpless defenders, she towered over the competition all season long to earn player of the year and outstanding player of the NCAA tournament honors.
She was simply dominant in adding national champion to her resume on Tuesday night.
Griner had 26 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks to lead Baylor to an 80-61 victory over Notre Dame in the NCAA women's basketball championship, capping an unparalleled 40-0 season for the Lady Bears.
“Brittney Griner, whether she won today or not, will go down in the history of the women's game as if not the greatest post player one of the greatest,” Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said. “I'm so glad she has that [championship] ring now.”
When the buzzer sounded, Griner finally celebrated, hamming it up as she helped take down the nets and dancing with Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III.
Then she lifted Mulkey up on her shoulders briefly, just the way she has done for the Lady Bears during this long season.
“It meant everything for us to get it for Coach,” said Griner, referring to Mulkey's struggle with Bell's palsy during the tournament. “She felt like she wasn't there for us but we told her every second that we could hear her loud and clear, everything she was saying.”
Baylor became the seventh women's team to run through a season unbeaten and the first in NCAA history to win 40 games. It was the second national championship for Baylor which also won a title in 2005.
“Looking back when we get older, I'm always going to remember this moment, always going to remember confetti falling and being here with my team,” Griner said.
Baylor did it in a nearly wire-to-wire victory, finishing with a flourish when anything less than bringing a title back to Waco would have been a huge disappointment.
The 6-foot-8 Griner was right at the center of the action as the Lady Bears took control. Every time Notre Dame made a run in the second half to cut into the deficit, Griner had an answer. She showed a wide array of post moves, hitting turnaround jumpers and hooks that the Irish had no way to stop — even when they collapsed around her.
“Brittney Griner comes to work every day,” Mulkey said. “A lot of great players think they're all that and they half go through drills and they come to practice and they dog it. That child comes to work and brings her work pail every day.”
Photo: Brittney Griner's