Stanford’s defensive pressure on Brittney Griner succeeded in frustrating the 6-foot-8 Baylor star and slowing her down. In the end, Griner still came away satisfied, her team one win away from a perfect season.
Griner and Terran Condrey each scored 13 points, and undefeated Baylor downed Stanford 59-47 Sunday night in an NCAA women’s semifinal game.
Baylor (39-0) advanced to play in the championship game on Tuesday against Notre Dame, which defeated Connecticut 83-75 in overtime in the other semifinal earlier at the Pepsi Center.
Baylor overcame a 22-point, nine-rebound performance by Nnemkadi Ogwumike in snapping Stanford’s school-record 32-game winning streak. The only previous loss by Stanford (34-2) was to UConn 68-58 in the fourth game of the season.
Stanford’s strategy focused on trying to slow Griner, double-teaming her throughout the game. And there was a degree of success in the tactic, as Griner, a junior who was selected the national Player of the Year, finished 10 points under her season scoring average (23.4 points per game).
“I give credit to Stanford,” said Griner, who was 3-for-9 shooting from the floor but helped make up for it at the free-throw line, where she went 7-for-9. “They’re a good team. They always had two people on me, and they stuck with their plan the whole game.
“You get frustrated when your shot doesn’t go in, but I had all the confidence in my team. Like coach (Kim Mulkey) says, this is not the Brittney Griner show at all. My team stepped up and knocked down shots.”
Stanford had no complaints about its defensive showing, but the Cardinal was troubled on the offensive end. Stanford made only 20 of its 60 shots from the field and was wildly off target from 3-point range, hitting two of 17, including an 0-for-5 effort by Ogwumike.
“We had some nice open looks and didn’t knock down shots,” Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said.
The imposing Griner and company had something to do with that, too.
“Their defense is terrific,” Ogwumike said. “Brittney in the paint, it just changes everyone’s game.”
With the victory, Baylor tied Tennessee (1998) and UConn (2002, 2009 and 2010) for most wins in a single season. Baylor would be the first to record a 40-win season with one more victory in the title game.
“It feels great, but then again, we haven’t done anything yet,” sophomore guard Odyssey Sims said.
Destiny Williams added 10 rebounds and seven points for Baylor, which is seeking its second championship and first since 2005.
Stanford was eliminated after reaching its fifth straight Final Four. The Cardinal came up short in its bid for its first title in 20 years.
Up by two at the break, Baylor used a 13-1 flurry to stretch its lead to 42-32 with 12:05 remaining. The run included a three-point play by Jordan Madden and was capped by Griner’s short turnaround jumper.
Chiney Ogwumike broke up Baylor’s surge with a steal off Griner and subsequent fastbreak layup, but the damage was done. And Stanford was hurt further when Chiney Ogwumike fouled out with 7:39 left to play.
The Cardinal pulled to within 49-43 on Nnemkadi Ogwumike’s layup with 4:33 remaining, but Williams made one of two free throws and Sims nailed a huge 3-pointer to rebuild Baylor’s advantage to 53-43 with 2:37 remaining.
Both teams struggled with their shooting amid tenacious defensive play on both sides.
Baylor led 25-23 at the half, getting seven points from Griner in the opening 20 minutes.