The Baylor Bears completed perhaps the greatest season in college basketball history on Tuesday night, defeating the Notre Dame Fighting Irish 80-61 in Denver to cap a perfect season and win the NCAA championship.
The victory was the 40th of the season for the Bears, becoming the first team -- men or women -- to hit the 40-win mark in a season. It is the seventh undefeated season in women's history and the second national championship for Baylor, which also won the title in 2005.
All-American Brittney Griner finished with 26 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks.
After trailing 34-28 at the half, Notre Dame closed to within three at 42-39 with 15:27 to play. But the Bears finally took over, a 17-2 run in the middle of the half stretching the lead to 71-50 with less than seven minutes to play.
The teams met in the preseason WNIT final on Nov. 17, with the Lady Bears winning in Waco, Texas, 94-81 behind Griner's gem of a game. That night the junior center scored 32 points, grabbed 14 rebounds and blocked five shots.
The Fighting Irish were game from the get-go, trading baskets with the Bears early on and even taking leads of 7-6 and 9-8, the latter with 16:03 to play in the first half. But Baylor went on an 8-0 run in less than four minutes to grab a 16-9 lead and take control of the game.
One of the problems keeping Notre Dame from getting closer in the latter part of the first half was foul trouble, as both All-American Skylar Diggins and forward Devereaux Peters picked up two early fouls and spent time on the bench. The loss of Peters was particularly damaging as she was tasked with guarding Griner but was limited to five minutes of floor time in the opening half, picking up her third foul with 4:39 to play in the half.
But the Irish battled back, ending the half on a 13-5 run to close to within six at intermission.
It was the second consecutive loss in the championship game for the Irish, who lost to Texas A&M in the 2011 title game, 76-70.