Dec. 5, 2012
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NOTRE DAME, Ind. (AP) - Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw took solace in her team's effort in another loss to No. 3 Baylor.
Even though her young, yet fifth-ranked Fighting Irish were beaten by the Lady Bears - just as they were in the national title game last season - McGraw thinks her squad offered more of a challenge this time.
The game was tied with seven minutes to go when the Lady Bears (7-1) used a 10-0 run to pull away en route to a 73-61 victory Wednesday night over Notre Dame, which has only two starters back from last year's team.
"We were much better than we were last year, with a much younger team - and they have the same team. So I was pleased. I think we've gotten better," she said. "I think when we watch the tape, we're going to see so many growing mistakes."
Brittney Griner had 24 points and 14 rebounds, three other Baylor players scored in double figures and the Lady Bears dominated inside. They outscored the Irish 36-26 in the paint and outrebounded them 44-35.
The bright spot for the Irish was freshman Jewell Loyd scoring a season-high 24 points. Loyd said she felt comfortable playing in her first big game.
"I just came to the game thinking it was just another home game, and I got into a rhythm early," she said.
McGraw knew the Irish were in trouble when Griner, who was 10 of 16 from the floor, started hitting a couple of shots from 15 feet.
"That's what we wanted her to take," she said.
Griner said she let the game come to her.
"Last year, I guess I started getting even more patient. I couldn't get my hands on the ball, keep moving. Whatever I can do, I will do. I took it a play at a time, post up strong when I had to. Did whatever I could to help my team out."
The Irish were simply no match for the Bears, especially with All-America senior Skylar Diggins struggling on 4-of-19 shooting and scoring eight points.
McGraw said the loss could give the Irish confidence.
"I think we maybe learned that we're better than we think we are," she said.
Odyssey Sims returned after missing four games with a hamstring injury and added 16 points for Baylor. Coach Kim Mulkey said she thought Sims' play proved she's the best point guard in the country.
"She's played Skylar four times and won every ball game. She's won a national championship," Mulkey said. "Odyssey didn't have one of her best games, either, but she never stopped being tough on the floor, and she never stopped guarding people."
McGraw said Sims makes Baylor tougher to play.
"When she's not in the game, you don't really have to guard them very much from the perimeter. So just having her on the court stretches the defense to her side a little bit more," she said.
Brooklyn Pope added 14 points for Baylor, and Jordan Madden had 12.
Diggins was frustrated by her bad shooting.
"I don't think I hesitated on my shot. It just wasn't going in," she said.
Kayla McBride had 18 points for Notre Dame and Natalie Achonwa 11. No one else scored for the Irish. Mulkey said she was impressed by Loyd.
"She's a tremendous jump shooter. Not many can take it off the dribble and shoot a jump shot. She's a special talent," she said.
Rapper Lil Wayne showed up at halftime, with Diggins walking over to shake his hand at his front-row seat after a timeout. In the front row at the other end were members of the top-ranked Fighting Irish football team, who cheered loudly throughout.
Despite the celebrities and a sellout crowd of 9,149, the Irish couldn't knock off the defending national champions as the men did six days earlier against Kentucky on the same floor.
Diggins said she was happy to see Lil Wayne at the game.
"I think it's great for our sport. Anything that can draw attention to women's basketball is great," she said.
-- ND --
POST GAME NOTES: Notre Dame suffers its first loss of the season, while dropping to 2-1 against Top 25 opponents this year ... the Fighting Irish are 100-19 (.840) since the start of the 2009-10 season (10-10 against the Associated Press Top 10; 21-12 against all ranked opponents), with 11 of those 19 losses decided by single digits (and Wednesday's game was in single digits until the closing minutes when Baylor opened its largest lead of the night at the foul line) ... Notre Dame is 50-5 (.909) at home since Purcell Pavilion was renovated prior to the 2009-10 season, including wins in 26 of their last 28 home games (only other loss in that span was a last-second 65-63 decision to West Virginia on Feb. 12, 2012) ... the Fighting Irish are 105-9 (.921) in non-conference home games since the 1994-95 season ... freshman guard Jewell Loyd narrowly missed etching her spot in the school record books with her 4-for-5 performance from three-point range, with the lone miss coming on a desperation shot with 14 seconds remaining -- the last Notre Dame player to go 4-for-4 from long distance was Natalie Novosel (March 5, 2012, vs. West Virginia in the BIG EAST Championship semifinals at Hartford, Conn.), while the last to do so at Purcell Pavilion was Brittany Mallory (Nov. 17, 2011, vs. Hartford in the Preseason WNIT semifinals) ... Loyd's season-high 24 points were the most by a Notre Dame freshman since Dec. 30, 2011, when current sophomore forward Markisha Wright also scored 24 points in a 128-42 win at Mercer ... Loyd's 24 points were the most by a Fighting Irish rookie against a ranked opponent since Jan. 26, 2002, when Jacqueline Batteast scored 26 points in Notre Dame's 64-57 win over No. 16/17 Virginia Tech at Purcell Pavilion ... Loyd's 24 points also were the most scored by a Notre Dame freshman against an opponent ranked in the top 10 of the Associated Press poll since Feb. 19, 2000, when Alicia Ratay netted 26 points (including a school-record 7-for-7 three-pointers) in a 78-74 overtime win at No. 8/11 Rutgers ... Wednesday's 12-point margin of defeat was the largest against Notre Dame at Purcell Pavilion since March 1, 2010, when Connecticut posted a 76-51 victory ... Baylor's .492 field goal percentage, .933 free throw percentage and 24 assists were Fighting Irish opponent season highs, while BU's .125 three-point percentage was an opponent season low ... the Bears' .933 free throw percentage also was third-best by a visiting team in Purcell Pavilion history, and best since Jan. 8, 2011, when Connecticut made 26-of-27 foul shots (.963) in a 79-76 victory ... conversely, Notre Dame had an uncharacteristic season-low .636 free throw percentage after entering the game ranked fifth in the nation at the foul line (.805) ... the Fighting Irish protected the ball well with just 13 turnovers (two shy of their season low set on Nov. 20 against Mercer) ... Notre Dame forced at least 20 opponent turnovers for the fifth time in six games this season (all but Nov. 23 at No. 19/22 UCLA, when the Bruins had 18 giveaways in a 76-64 Fighting Irish win) ... junior guard Kayla McBride has scored between 16-18 points in four of six games this season ... senior All-America guard Skylar Diggins went over the 1,800-point mark for her career on Wednesday night (now at 1,804 - good for fifth in school history), while also tying her season high with seven assists (551 for her career, three behind Coquese Washington for fifth place in school history) and registering at least four steals for the third time in her last four games (now at 288 thefts for her career, 19 behind Washington for second in school history) ... for the first time in six games this season, Notre Dame repeated a starting lineup from earlier in the season, as the Fighting Irish reprised the starting five that opened the Nov. 23 win at UCLA ... Notre Dame broke out its fourth different uniform combination of the season, sporting white jerseys and shorts with lime green accents (in support of the promotional "Lime Out" in the arena, highlighting the unofficial color of Notre Dame women's basketball and the favorite shade of head coach Muffet McGraw) ... Notre Dame registered its second sellout in three home games this season, as well as its 27th sellout all-time and 21st in the past four years.