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Irish go the extra mile; Diggins, Mallory lead way in OT; Bears win again

Notre Dame is back in the national championship thanks to Skylar Diggins' steady leadership and Brittany Mallory's clutch shooting.

Diggins scored 19 points, Mallory hit two big three-pointers in overtime and the Irish beat Connecticut, 83-75, on Sunday night.

The two hooked up for a game-turning play in overtime when Diggins stood her ground on a fast break, blocked the shot to prevent the Huskies from retaking the lead, then fed Mallory at the other end for her second important three.

"That was game-saving. That was huge," Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. "That would have turned it around if they made that layup. She sprinted the floor, made that huge play. It gave us such a big momentum lift, and Britt hitting that three made it a huge play."

The Fighting Irish will play Baylor in Tuesday's championship game.

Notre Dame (35-3) also beat the Huskies (33-5) in the semifinals last year, ending Maya Moore's brilliant career and the Huskies' bid for a third straight national championship. But Notre Dame stumbled 48 hours later, losing to Texas A&M in the title game in Indianapolis.

Unfinished business has been their mantra all season, and now they get a chance to take care of business Tuesday night against the Baylor-Stanford winner. That ended too late for this edition.

The game was tied at 67 after regulation following an 8-2 run by UConn that was fueled by a series of hustle plays from Kelly Faris, who had a steal and a basket and four free throws in the final 90 seconds.

The Huskies, who were led by Stefanie Dolson's 20 points despite foul trouble, stretched their run to 11-3 when Bria Hartley opened the extra period with a three-pointer.

The Huskies had the ball again after a missed free throw but Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis fired up an off-target three-pointer early in the shot clock and UConn never recovered.

Diggins' best play came on defense. With Notre Dame clinging to a 73-72 lead, the Huskies had a 2-on-1 fast break but Diggins held her ground and blocked Hartley's layup attempt, and the Irish scored the next eight points to ice it.

"We put ourselves in a position to win the game," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "The last two minutes, minute and a half of regulation were pretty amazing. As most games do, it turned on one great play by a great player.

"In overtime we didn't have enough. We took a chance on making it difficult, but Brittany Mallory made two huge shots. That's who we wanted to take the shots, and God bless her, she made them."

Mallory was 0 for 4 from behind the arc in regulation.

"It was a big sigh of relief when that first one went in," she said.

***

Baylor beats Stanford

DENVER -- One win from perfection.

Brittney Griner was constantly hounded and double-teamed, scoring only one basket in the second half Sunday night. So the Baylor supporting cast jumped in and carried the unbeaten Lady Bears to the national championship game.

Griner finished with 13 points and nine rebounds to lead Baylor to a 59-47 win over Stanford and into the women's NCAA final against Notre Dame.

"We're not the Brittney Griner show," Lady Bears coach Kim Mulkey said. "Brittney Griner is the face of women's basketball, and she deserves to be, but this team is bigger than Brittney. She will tell you that. Brittney Griner double- and triple-teamed allows other players on her team to have opportunities."

Baylor (39-0) is one victory from becoming the seventh women's team to finish undefeated and has a chance at being the first squad in NCAA history to win 40 games in a season.

Baylor and Notre Dame met in the preseason WNIT final, with the Lady Bears winning in Waco, 94-81, on Nov. 17.

"It's going to be a good game," Griner said. "We beat them earlier in the season, but we've got to erase that. This is the game everybody wants."

Stanford (35-2) fell short in the Final Four for the fifth straight season, ending its school-record 32-game winning streak.

The Cardinal refused to let the 6-foot-8 Griner beat them, collapsing on her in the paint. The strategy worked for the first 20 minutes before the other Lady Bears started making shots.