- Charlie Creme, Women's College Basketball
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DENVER -- A look at Baylor's 59-47 victory over Stanford in Sunday's second national semifinal game at the Pepsi Center.
HOW THE GAME WAS WON: Stanford will be given credit for a great defensive strategy, double- and triple-teaming Brittney Griner and begging Baylor's role players to win the game. It was a solid game plan and worked for a while. But Baylor simply played great defense, too, especially on the perimeter. Odyssey Sims, Jordan Madden and Terran Condrey hounded the Stanford guards. The Cardinal didn't turn over the ball much (eight times), but when the ball was in the hands of Amber Orrange and Toni Kokenis, Stanford couldn't get into its offense. The Cardinal were reduced to relying almost exclusively on Nneka Ogwumike's drives in the second half, and with Brittney Griner and Destiny Williams on the back line, those weren't easy, either. Orrange, Kokenis and Lindy La Rocque combined to shoot just 5-of-20. Anytime a Stanford team is held to fewer than 50 points, it's news. In the end, Baylor's better overall talent just won out, but that talent mostly showed up on the defensive end on Sunday night.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Baylor's Brittney Griner. This would not go down as one of Griner's best performances with just 13 points and nine rebounds. But she really did change this game. Chiney Ogwumike, after a good start, was a non-factor in the second half and fouled out with 7½ minutes left, trying to stay with Griner. Once that second scoring option was erased from the Cardinal attack, they were done. Even with only two blocks, Griner was a force on defense, disrupting much of what Stanford tried to do in the second half. With so much attention given to Griner on the other end, eventually some other Lady Bears found room to work. Baylor's supporting cast once again proved too good to be given that much space.
PLAYER OF THE GAME II: Baylor's Terran Condrey. The senior reserve guard was the Baylor role player that most capitalized on being left alone. She made three key, wide-open jumpers early in the second half and tied Griner with the team lead with 13 points.
PLAYER OF THE GAME III: Stanford's Nneka Ogwumike. In what turned out to be her final game, Ogwumike gave a great effort. She scored a game-high 22 points and grabbed nine rebounds. But to further underscore Griner's impact, it took Ogwumike 23 shots to get those 22 points, an uncharacteristically inefficient, if still not outstanding, performance.
TURNING POINT: With just more than 14 minutes left and Stanford down 34-31, Chiney Ogwumike was whistled for an offensive foul for warding off Griner from the basket. It negated a Toni Kokenis layup that would have made it a one-point game. Instead, the Cardinal didn't score a field goal for the next three minutes and Baylor scored eight of the next nine points to take a 10-point lead.
STAT OF THE GAME: Success from the 3-point line is a must to beat Baylor, and Stanford, despite some open looks, could not deliver in that department. The Cardinal shot 2-for-17 from deep, preventing them from ever really grabbing any momentum.
STAT OF THE GAME II: As good as Baylor was on defense and as much as some role players like Condrey stepped up, the Lady Bears still struggled to establish any offensive rhythm. They shot just 36.5 percent from the field and made only two 3-pointers.
FINAL X FACTOR: Ultimately, Baylor was just too good. Stanford had a plan and really did execute it. The Lady Bears just have too many options and the Cardinal couldn't take away all of them. To beat a quality team like Stanford and not get top performances from either Griner or Sims says plenty about Baylor's talent. The Lady Bears didn't even get much on the offensive end from usual third and fourth options like Destiny Williams and Kimetria Hayden, and still beat the second-ranked team in the country by double digits. They did it with defense and Griner, who even on an off night is a game-changer.
First-half analysis: Baylor 25, Stanford 23
PLAYER OF THE HALF: Chiney Ogwumike. The younger sister became something of a point forward in the first half. With Brittney Griner matched up with her on most possessions, Chiney Ogwumike took the Baylor star to the top of the key and then fired pinpoint bounce passes to open teammates in the lane for layups. Chiney didn't score much (two points), but her passing was part of a game plan that was executed well. The 6-foot-3 sophomore finished with four assists.
KEY MOMENT: Stanford began the game shooting 2-for-9 from the floor and was down 7-4. Then on consecutive possessions, Chiney found sister Nneka Ogwumike for a backdoor layup, and freshman Bonnie Samuelson made an open 3-pointer to give Stanford an 8-7 lead, establishing that the Cardinal would be in this game.
KEY STAT: Griner had just one field goal attempt in the first nine minutes and three over the first 14 minutes of the half. Stanford's sagging man-zone hybrid defense worked well at limiting both Griner's touches and at the same time Odyssey Sims' looks from the outside. Essentially, Tara VanDerveer dared Jordan Madden, Kimetria Hayden and Terran Condrey to beat Stanford. In the first half, they really couldn't although Baylor still had the slim advantage at the break. Griner ended the half with a team-leading seven points on 2-of-5 shooting.
KEY STAT II: Stanford launched 12 3-pointers but made just two, both by Samuelson. The Cardinal offense was all or nothing in the first half. Either they got great inside looks from Chiney Ogwumike's passing or Toni Kokenis' penetration, or they were forced to launch from deep.