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Griner leads Baylor past Stanford

Chris Masoud | Monday, April 2, 2012

DENVER – Stanford forward senior Nnemkadi Ogwumike outscored Baylor center junior Brittney Griner 22 to 13, yet finished as the Cardinal’s only scorer in double figures as the Lady Bears advanced to the NCAA title game with a 59-47 victory Sunday night.

Stanford forward and Nnemkadi’s sister sophomore Chiney Ogwumike fouled out with 7:58 remaining in the second half, finishing with just four points and four rebounds.

“They have an excellent team. We worked very hard, we prepared really hard, but at the end of the day they outplayed us,” Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. “They have some great players and an outstanding coach in Kim Mulkey.”

Sophomore guard Odyssey Sims directed the Baylor offense from the backcourt, tallying 11 points, four rebounds and three assists. After leading the Cardinal (34-2, 18-0 Pac-12) by just two at the break, the Lady Bears (39-0, 18-0 Big 12) erupted in the second half to outscore Stanford 34-24.

But it was the Baylor defense that stifled the Cardinal into bad shots as the clock wound down, allowing the Lady Bears to pull away in the second half.

“Having Brittney in the paint completely changes everyone’s game, not just the inside players’ game. Attacking the basket is a little bit more difficult,” Nnemkadi said. “It’s not that we were trying to run the clock down, it just kind of happened. Those aren’t the shots we want, but I think we tried our best to really compose ourselves on offense.”

The Cardinal could not find the bottom of the net from behind the arc, finishing 2-for-17 on the night. Yet they did outscore Baylor 24-16 in the paint, while limiting Griner to just nine rebounds.

“I give credit to Stanford. They’re a good team,” Griner said. “They always had two people on me or a second defender coming to try to double me, and they stuck with their plan the whole game. You’re frustrated when your shot doesn’t go in. But you know I had all the confidence in my team. Like coach said, it’s not the Brittney Griner show at all.”

Senior guard Terran Condrey chipped in 13 points for Baylor, who finished with one less field goal than the Cardinal at 19. What the Lady Bears lacked from the field they made up from the free throw line, knocking down 19 of 26 attempts.

“We’d make one pass and play right into Stanford’s hands and shoot the first shot that was open. All you’ve got to do is reverse the ball, be patient, let Griner still get touches,” Mulkey said. “But you know, Griner does what she does. She draws a lot of attention, and we’re not a one-dimensional team. Brittney Griner is the face of women’s basketball right now.”

Baylor’s victory sets up a national championship matchup with Notre Dame, 83-75 winners in the other national semifinal contest against Connecticut. Baylor defeated the Irish 94-81 on Nov. 20 in Waco, Texas.

Nnemkadi, who played with several Notre Dame starters on Team USA in the Women’s World University Games last summer, said the rematch could be a tightly-played affair.

“[Notre Dame] may not have the size, but I think Devereaux is one of the best post players I’ve played with [on Team USA], and Kayla McBride is a brute,” she said. “You have Natalie Novosel, Brittany Mallory and obviously Natalie Achonwa and everyone that comes off the bench. I think it’s going to be a great matchup on Tuesday.”