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No guesswork with UConn-Notre Dame; Baylor's Griner, Mulkey honored

DENVER -- The UConn-Notre Dame semifinal matchup at the Final Four offers no secrets or surprises.

The Big East bullies will meet for the fourth time this season and the eighth time in the past 14 months. By contrast, the other game pits Stanford and Baylor playing for the first time since 2008 and just the fourth time ever.

Coaches Geno Auriemma of Connecticut and Muffet McGraw of Notre Dame say this grudge match between such familiar foes will come down to execution and effort with a dollop of desire mixed in for good measure.

Forget the Xs and Os and leave the bag of tricks behind. They know each other's plays and personnel about as well as they know their own.

"There's no mystery left," Notre Dame guard Brittany Mallory said. "There's not going to be any surprises. It's all about heart, who is going to play the hardest, who is going to execute and play well."

The Huskies are motivated by revenge -- they lost to the Fighting Irish, 72-63, at the Final Four last year after sweeping the season series and beating Notre Dame in the conference tournament as well.

The Fighting Irish are driven by the mantra of unfinished business -- after dumping UConn, they lost to Texas A&M in the title game a year ago.

"It (stinks) being the bridesmaid, you know what I mean? I want to get married. I want to be the main one, I don't want to be the side chick," said Notre Dame point guard Skylar Diggins, the Big East's player of the year.

To get that chance, the Fighting Irish (34-3) will have to get past the Huskies (33-4) again tonight (6:30 p.m., ESPN).

Buoyed by that win in last year's Final Four, Notre Dame swept UConn in the regular season only to lose to the Huskies in the Big East tournament title game.


Griner AP's top player

DENVER -- Brittney Griner is The Associated Press' women's college basketball Player of the Year, the first Baylor player to win the award.

She received 36 votes Saturday from the 40-member national media panel that selects the weekly Top 25.

Griner's coach, Kim Mulkey, is The Associated Press' Coach of the Year. Mulkey has guided her team to an undefeated season so far and the Lady Bears stand two wins away from becoming the first team in NCAA history to win 40 games in a season. They go for one of those wins tonight (9 p.m., ESPN) against Stanford in the second national semifinal.


Oklahoma St. wins

STILLWATER, Okla. -- As Tiffany Bias climbed a ladder to cut down the net after Oklahoma State's WNIT championship, coach Jim Littell instructed her to take it all down except one last string.

At the end of a season marked by the deaths of coach Kurt Budke and three others in a November plane crash, he wanted someone special to share in the triumph.

Budke's widow, Shelley, climbed up to do the last snip.

"I have never been more proud of a group of young ladies than I have this group," said Littell, Budke's former top assistant who took over after the crash.

"They set the goal in November to pay honor, and I promise you they paid honor [Saturday] and in this tournament."

Toni Young scored 25 points for Oklahoma State, which beat James Madison, 75-68, Saturday to win the program's first WNIT championship.


Final Four

Tonight's games in Denver    

Notre Dame vs. Connecticut, 6:30 p.m., ESPN    


Baylor vs. Stanford, 9 p.m., ESPN    

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