Your Baylor Lady Bears are now 39-0 and on their way to the National Championship Tuesday night after beating Stanford tonight to the tune of 59-47. The only things standing between the Lady Bears and the first 40-0 season in college basketball history are Skylar Diggins and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, a team that Baylor actually beat in November of this season.
Baylor earned its way to the second national championship game in program history by suffocating Stanford in the second half defensively. Still, the final score of tonight's game was not indicative of how close it actually was; the result was in doubt until almost the very end, and it was only through a total team performance on offense that Baylor was able to pull out a victory. Five Baylor players scored 7 or more points for the Lady Bears and Terran Condrey actually tied for the team lead with 13. Odyssey Sims added 11 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists, and Destiny Williams also contributed 10 rebounds, 7 points, and 2 assists.
I'm not exactly sure what to say about Griner's performance tonight. It wasn't that she missed a ton of shots (she did shoot relatively poorly by her own standards, but only took 9 total); it was that she didn't really get the chances that she needed to make her normal impact. A lot of that was due to Stanford's defensive game plan, which was simply outstanding early in the game. We found out immediately before the game that Stanford would blanket Griner and challenge Jordan Madden to beat them. That strategy worked masterfully early in the game as Madden (and Condrey) couldn't make them pay. Sims, normally Baylor's spark plug on offense, also played relatively poorly early in the game offensively, and it wasn't until Baylor ratcheted things up on defense that the offense improved. I'll be interested to see in the next game if Notre Dame employs the same strategy Stanford did, though Notre Dame won't have the same four days to prepare.
As for Notre Dame, they won a spot in the National Championship by beating the Lady Huskies of Connecticut in overtime in the early game. Notre Dame, led as always by All-American Skylar Diggins, put UConn away in overtime by hitting 3 threes and just running away with it. Of course, overtime shouldn't even have been necessary because the Irish led by 6 with just over 2 minutes to go and looked to be in total control. UConn managed to fight back and actually take the lead as Notre Dame collapsed around them before ND's Natalie Novosel put back a Diggins miss with 4 points left to tie it up.
To go back to Stanford for a second-- I can't say enough about Nneka Ogwumike for Stanford. When her sister Chiney fouled out with 9 minutes to go, Nneka lifted the Cardinal on her back and led them back into the game almost by herself. When Stanford needed a bucket, she got it. She led all scorers in the game with 22 and also pulled down 9 rebounds. She was only credited with 1 block, but I think she had more. Because they play on the west coast and never faced the Lady Bears this season, I hadn't seen her play. She was better than I thought she'd be, and I thought she'd be great. I genuinely feel bad that she will graduate without winning a championship at Stanford.
But I'll get over it if/when Baylor beats Notre Dame on Tuesday night. 40-0 is in reach, Ladies. Go get it.
UPDATE: Here is the Quick Analysis from SwishAppeal, SBNation's WBB blog. Check it out.