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DENVER - Baylor's Destiny Williams had ice on her legs, but didn't seem to really be feeling any pain. After all, her Lady Bears had just advanced to the NCAA women's basketball championship game.
Baylor didn't have its A-1 game on April 1st, but still played well enough to beat Stanford 59-47 in the national semifinals.
"We came out not totally focused," said Williams, who was sitting on a training table getting treatment after the game but should be fine for Tuesday's final against Notre Dame. "We can't come out that way against Notre Dame, because they will make us pay, badly."
Williams, rather than spend much time relishing the victory in hand Sunday, was instead already thinking ahead. Last year, the Irish lost the NCAA title game to Texas A&M. This year, it's another Big 12 team – the undefeated Lady Bears – who are looking to stop Notre Dame in the final. There's a chance the Big 12 could double up on NCAA hoops titles, as Kansas faces Kentucky for the men's championship Monday.
If Baylor is victorious, it will bring the second women's hoops title to the school, which won previously in 2005 under coach Kim Mulkey. Baylor also would become the second Big 12 women's program to have a perfect season; Texas did it in 1986 when the Longhorns were still in the Southwest Conference.
Baylor, the Big 12 tournament and regular-season champions in 2011 and '12, had to look beyond the usual standouts to help subdue the Cardinal. Sunday wasn't the Brittney Griner Show or the Odyssey Sims Spectacle, because Stanford concentrated so much effort on slowing down those two Baylor stars.
But it didn't matter, because the Lady Bears had talent to spare. Senior guard Terran Condrey came off the bench for 13 points, matching Griner for the team lead in scoring. Meanwhile, Sims and Jordan Madden were just 8 of 22 combined from the field, but their 20 points were still very big on a night when Baylor's defense again took center stage. Williams had seven points and 10 rebounds as the Lady Bears won the battle on the glass 42-34.
The Cardinal had a reasonable game plan: Limit Griner's touches (she was 3 of 9) and make Baylor win with perimeter shooting, while simultaneously hurting the Lady Bears with the same thing. That's similar to what Texas Tech did twice during the regular season in staying within single digits of the Lady Bears.
And it worked reasonably well for Stanford, too. The problem was that players like Condrey had big games, while Stanford wasn't able to really do any damage from behind the arc. The Cardinal made just 2 of 17 3-point attempts.
"They basically doubled Brittney and left Jordan Madden and Terran Condrey open," Baylor's Kimetria "Nae-Nae" Hayden said. "We kept trying to feed it into Griner, but a lot of the time we couldn't. We had to hit outside shots.
"And on defense, we had to stop the backdoor – they were getting a lot of backdoor cuts on us. We had to play our defense."
Baylor led 25-23 at halftime. At which point, Williams said, "We told ourselves: 'This is it. We only have one half to go. And if you don't get it done, you go home.' "
Instead, Baylor sent the Cardinal home, just as Texas A&M did to Stanford in the semifinals last year in Indianapolis.
Baylor had faced Stanford just three times previously in the programs' histories, the most recent being in 2008. However, Baylor has a much fresher memory of Notre Dame. The Lady Bears beat the Irish 94-81 in the Preseason WNIT title game at the Ferrell Center in November.
"They have great guards; we have more size," Williams said. "But we can't allow their seniors to go off."
Sunday, it was a Baylor senior who did that; Condrey hadn't scored in double figures in any game since Jan. 26 at Oklahoma. The 5-foot-7 Condrey, who is from Eufaula, Ala., is the ultimate low-maintenance player, Mulkey said.
Think back to the beginning of the 2010-11 season, when Sims came into the Baylor program still not 100 percent trusting the knee she'd injured before joining the team. Then-senior Kelli Griffin left the team just a couple of days before the season started. And so the plan to bring along Sims a little more slowly was tossed by the wayside.
Instead, Sims had to take a bigger role more quickly than Baylor had originally anticipated. Condrey was there to help show Sims the way.
"Basically, it was just telling her to keep going even if she messed up or whatever," Condrey said. "I know that as a freshman, sometimes you get a little bit frustrated because you want to do so well. I just told her to stick with it."
Condrey wasn't just in an encouraging role Sunday, though; she was crucial in hitting those important shots.
"Terran doesn't care about all that attention," Williams said. "She's big for us; you can always rely on her to make a big shot. That's something you can't get from every player, but she works on it every day in practice. Everybody on this team respects Terran."
Mulkey, who was diagnosed with Bell's palsy last week, credited her team with not getting rattled even when they trailed the Cardinal. Sims said that while the Lady Bears had a bit of the jitters to start the game, they really kept their poise. As has been their hallmark this season.
When the score was tied 31-31 at the 16:18 mark of the second half, Baylor went on a 15-3 run over the next 4 minutes. Mulkey said that during that stretch, Baylor switched defenses between a 2-2-1 zone, man-to-man, and a 2-3 zone.
"But it wasn't a magical thing I did or called on either end of the floor," Mulkey said. "I just think our patience paid off. And we'll be out there come Tuesday and give it our best shot again."