Pope, Griner lead No. 2 Baylor over Notre Dame

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WACO, Texas (AP)—Brooklyn Pope provided quite a boost for Brittney Griner and second-ranked Baylor.

Pope had 20 points with 14 rebounds and got her three assists on baskets by Griner, and the Lady Bears withstood a quick second-half surge by No. 16 Notre Dame for a 76-65 victory Wednesday night.

“Brooklyn came ready to play and she was very aggressive,” coach Kim Mulkey said of the 6-foot-1 sophomore. “She played under control, didn’t try to do too much and let the game come to her. She was really good.”

Griner finished with 21 points. She and Pope combined to score Baylor’s first 15 points in the game, putting the Lady Bears (8-1) ahead to stay.

When Pope made a layup with 11:18 left, they led 56-37. Notre Dame (5-3) then scored 12 consecutive points in 79 seconds before Pope ended that stretch with a jumper.

The nap she took after shootaround helped according to Pope, who had to sit out last season after transferring from Rutgers. She set season highs for points and rebounds while matching her season best for assists.

“I’m going to get through the hump of not playing (last year),” Pope said. “Coach is showing patience keeping me in the lineup. I got there tonight, and played OK.”

Griner, the preseason AP All-American, added eight rebounds and four blocks in her fifth consecutive 20-point game—she averaged 29.8 points her previous four games.

Pope and Griner were among five Baylor players scoring in double figures. Kimetria Hayden had 14 points, including her own 7-0 run in the first half, while Odyssey Sims had 11 and Melissa Jones 10.

“That just means we’re all working together, finding each other,” Griner said.

Skylar Diggins had 21 points for Notre Dame (5-3), whose other losses this season were to eighth-ranked Kentucky and No. 13 UCLA.

It was the closest home game of the season for Baylor, which won its previous seven by an average margin of 42 points. The smallest margin had been 26 points over then-No. 25 Michigan State.

“We battled UCLA. We battled Kentucky. We want to come up with a win, and that’s the maturity of a young team,” said Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw, who next year will join Mulkey in the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. “We need to be able to get over that hump and do it for 40 minutes. That’s what we’ve got to learn, and I think if we learn that lesson, we’re going to be a pretty good team.”

The Lady Bears, whose only loss was by one point at top-ranked Connecticut, appeared to be on the way to another lopsided home win when Pope’s layup gave them a 19-point lead. But things changed quickly.

Diggins had two 3-pointers along with a steal and breakaway layup. Natalie Novosel, who finished with 12 points, had two free throws and a jumper, and the fast-scoring spurt got Notre Dame within 56-49 with 9:45 left.

“We were like a deer in headlights at the beginning of the first half. Finally in the second half, we picked it up,” Diggins said. “The gamer in us kicked in and the heart finally showed up. We wanted to win. We were making shots, we were getting out in transition. That’s when we get confidence.”

The Fighting Irish still came up short.

While scoring the first 15 points for the Lady Bears, Griner and Pope had an impressive 2-minute spurt after Notre Dame took its only lead.

Diggins’ 3-pointer made it 7-6 with 14:42 left in the first half. Griner made a tying free throw 20 seconds later, then Pope had a steal on a turnover by Diggins and drove for a layup that put Baylor ahead to stay.

Pope then rebounded a missed 3-pointer by Diggins and worked the ball to Griner for an inside basket. Pope made a jumper of her own before another pass inside to Griner to make it 15-9, leading to an immediate timeout by Notre Dame.

Late in the first half, Hayden hit a 3-pointer before back-to-back steals for layups that extended the lead to 36-19.

“We won the game against a very, very well-coached team, but I don’t want them to feel good about the win,” Mulkey said. “I want them to come up here and be bothered by the fact that we allowed this to be a closer game than it should have been.”

Baylor is 123-9 in non-conference games in 11 seasons under Mulkey, and 151-19 at home.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 Notre Dame
Skylar Diggins Skylar Diggins
8-17,  21 Pts
1 Rebs, 5 Assists
 Baylor
Brooklyn Pope Brooklyn Pope
10-17,  20 Pts
14 Rebs, 3 Assists

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Wednesday, Dec 1