Notre Dame will look to its veterans, like Natalie Novosel, to try and knock off top-ranked Baylor Tuesday night for the NCAA championship. (Daily News Photo/File)

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Notre Dame facing Baylor for title

Published 6:03pm Monday, April 2, 2012

Two teams with one goal will take the court at the Pepsi Center Tuesday night in Denver, Colo., as top-ranked Baylor takes on No. 4-ranked Notre Dame for the NCAA Women’s Basketball championship.

The Bears (39-0) and the Fighting Irish (35-3) both have one NCAA championship. Baylor has been in three title games and Notre Dame four.

This is the second straight year the Irish have played for the national championship.

Not only is Baylor looking for its second championship, but a chance to set an NCAA record for victories in a single season. No women’s basketball team has ever won 40 games.

The Fighting Irish, led by South Bend All-American Skylar Diggins, advanced to the championship with a victory over Big East rival Connecticut Sunday night in the first of two national semifinals.

It was the third time this season Notre Dame has defeated the Huskies in four meetings. The last time the Fighting Irish were a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and defeated Connecticut in the semifinals, Notre Dame won the championship in 2001.

Baylor is led by All-American Brittney Griner. The Bears also had former Benton Harbor high school All-American Destiny Williams on their roster.

Baylor reached the championship game with a victory over Stanford Sunday night in the second semifinal. The Cardinal were playing in their fifth consecutive Final Four.

There are a lot of similarities between Notre Dame and Baylor. The Bears defeated the Fighting Irish 94-81 in their regular season meeting in November.

Notre Dame did play without Natalie Achonwa, who was recovering from an injury.

The Fighting Irish average 79.2 points per game compared to 78.9 points per game by the Bears. Notre Dame allows 51.5 points per game defensively compared to 52 points per game by Baylor.

If Diggins and Griner perform up to their expectations for each team, it could come down to the role players to determine the national champion.

Notre Dame will look to guards Brittany Mallory and Natalie Novosel, both seniors. Baylor will turn to Williams and Odyssey Sims.

Novosel had 20 points in the Irish’s semifinal victory, while Mallory connected on a pair of key 3-pointers in overtime. Notre Dame will also look to senior Devereaux Peters inside for both offense and defense. Peters had 17 points and 12 rebounds against the Huskies.

Williams is averaging 10 points and nine rebounds per game, while Sims is averaging 15 points and three rebounds a contest.

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