Dishin on the Final Four: Condrey helps bring Baylor within one of perfection
Would two be better than one?
The second semifinal of the NCAA tournament set out to answer that question. Could the Ogwumike sisters and Stanford get the better of undefeated Brittney Griner and Baylor? After the impressive performances of Nneka Ogwumike in the tournament, many seemed to feel that the Cardinal had what it takes to get it done. It was not to be, however, as Baylor advanced to the finals, 59-47.
Baylor went right to Griner from the outset, and she quickly drew a foul on each Ogwumike, Nneka and Chiney. A huge part of Griner’s success this year is her improvement at the foul line, and she hit her first three along with a nice up and under for a fast five points. At the first media timeout, it was Baylor leading 7-4.
Stanford came out with a change in defensive strategy, surrounding Griner, and daring the remaining Lady Bears to make shots. It worked as Griner did not get a shot in the next four minutes, and her teammates hit three of eleven shots. On the offensive end, Stanford was busy spreading the wealth around, with four different players scoring, in a 12-11 Baylor lead.
A Griner foul shot was matched by a Nneka Ogwumike three-point play and another layup, and Stanford had their first lead, 16-14. Baylor allowed Griner to be pulled outside to the high post by Stanford’s centers, and Nneka had room to operate.
At the six minute mark, Griner and Nneka had seven each, but Odyssey Sims for Baylor was held scoreless, and Chiney for Stanford had only two points. Stanford led by two, but it seemed neither team could get most of their support players going. For Stanford, Bonnie Samuelson contributed five points, and for Baylor “Nene” Hayden had six points in the first half.
Neither team got into a good flow, and perhaps it was the intensity of the first game, but the first half of this game seemed anti-climactic. At the half, Baylor led 25-23, and both Griner and Nneka had only seven points each. Baylor hit only 31 percent of their shots, and Stanford was not much better at 33 percent.
Stanford came out ready to establish Nneka in the second half, and she responded with six of their first eight points. However, Terran Condrey, being dared to shoot by Stanford, went three-for-three in the second half, and the momentum began to shift in favor of the Lady Bears. When Jordan Madden completed a three point play and a runner, it was Baylor up 40-32. They did this with one point out of Griner for the half.
With 9:25 to go, Chiney went to the bench with four fouls, and as the game continued to grind at a methodical pace, Baylor extended their lead to twelve on two Destiny Williams’ foul shots and a Condrey layup.
Chiney was off her game the entire night. A ferocious rebounder and aggressive player, she fouled out with 7:39 to go, with only four points and four rebounds. On a night when Stanford needed tremendous efforts from both Ogwumikes, Chiney struggled.
The second half deteriorated into a series of whistles, as both teams committed foul after foul and the parade to the line began. Williams, Griner, and Amber Orrange, all took turns at the line.
As the game wound down, Stanford did not seem to have a sense of urgency; they had a feeling that they could come back in this game. But when Nneka Ogwumike picked up her fourth foul, and Baylor ran a beautiful set for a Sims basket, it was Baylor by ten with fewer than two minutes to go.
As she had all season, Nneka Ogwumike was the offense for Stanford, as she was the only player for the Cardinal to score in double figures. She was removed with 34 seconds to go to a tremendous ovation; a four-time Final Four participant, with a tremendous professional career ahead of her, but no national championship.
Baylor proved they can win ugly, and win without Griner being a primary offensive weapon for the Lady Bears. She only converted three-of-nine shot attempts, but her presence allowed the remaining members of the team to have open looks that they converted in the second half. Odyssey Sims put her stamp on the game in the second half as well, and Baylor won by twelve, 59-47, upping their record to 39-0.
On Tuesday night in Denver, it won’t be easy being green, as the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Baylor Lady Bears will face off for their place in history.
Can the Irish four guard offense shoot over and around the Baylor size? Will Notre Dame be able to defend Griner?
I cannot wait. It should be a fun conclusion to a great season.