By Wendell Barnhouse | email@example.com
DALLAS - What would have been a story similar to Hoosiers or Mircale on Ice was rewritten in the final chapter. And Kim Mulkey wanted to make sure everyone knew how she'd write it.
"Jordan Madden is the story," she said. "That's who needs to be written about."
With five seconds remaining on the shot clock and 38 seconds on the game clock and a three-point Baylor lead on the scoreboard, Madden stepped into a 3-point shot in front of her team's bench. It swished.
The top-seeded Lady Bears (31-1) defeated a league foe by single digits for the first time this season, holding off fifth-seeded Oklahoma State 77-69 in the quarterfinals of the Phillips 66 Big 12 Women's Championship Sunday.
Baylor will face second-seeded Iowa State, a 79-60 winner over No. 3 seed Oklahoma, in Monday's championship game (7 p.m., FSN). The Lady Bears are in the title game for the fourth straight year and seventh time overall. Baylor seeks to become the first Big 12 team to win three straight Big 12 Championship crowns and the first team to win five titles.
The defending national champions are in that position thanks to Madden, a 6-foot senior who is perhaps the most anonymous Lady Bear. Brittney Griner, player of the year; Odyssey Sims, All-American point guard; Brooklyn Pope and Destiny Williams, book-end power forwards; Kimetria "Nae-Nae" Hayden has the nickname and leads the team in 3-point shooting.
Madden has been known more for her defense, not her shooting. Last season she made just 16 of 79 threes (20.3 percent) as Baylor went 40-0.
"Everybody wanted to expose Jordan Madden on Griner's side and not guard her," Mulkey said. "She has stayed in the gym more than any of the perimeter starters. She might have hit the biggest shot of her career today, and it wasn't wide open. It was a shot clock winding down with people having their hands up.
"So that's the story, is Jordan Madden, the one you would have least expected, didn't hesitate to shoot that shot and make it."
The Cowgirls (21-10) nearly pulled off the kind of headline-making upset that would have knocked Twitter World off its axis. Baylor has won its last 48 games against Big 12 foes and in 18 league victories this season, the closest margin was 15. But the three times the Lady Bears built 17-point leads (twice in the second half), Oklahoma State answered.
"We don't ever give up," said Toni Young, who had 22 points and 11 rebounds. "Our team, we're really athletic. We came and competed with the No. 1 team in the nation. Not that many people came that close to them."
The Cowgirls' 2-3 zone befuddled Baylor. Griner, who still finished with 30 points, went nearly 20 minutes without a field goal. Mulkey benched Griner two minutes into the second half after she committed two turnovers.
Baylor turned it over 24 times, a statistic that went a long way to equalizing the game. As their 11-point lead (65-54 with less than eight minutes remaining) dwindled, the Lady Bears threw it away on eight of 11 possessions.
At the next-to-last media timeout, Oklahoma State coach Jim Littell got his team to start thinking upset.
"(I told them) let's change our mindset from playing them close and being respectable to thinking about going and winning this thing," he said. "I felt like our team really responded to that. They got excited. I think the last nine minutes, our team, whether it be smart or not, believed they could win the basketball game.
"I thought we played with no fear. I believe there's a lot of teams that have a fear factor when they play Baylor."
A 12-3 run pulled Oklahoma State to within 72-69 with 1:34 remaining. A Sims turnover gave the Cowgirls possession but Oklahoma State failed to get a shot when it turned it over. That set the stage for Madden's key three with 38 seconds remaining.
"They could have very easily won and we could have very easily lost," Mulkey said. "I thought late in the game we had some very uncharacteristic turnovers. We'll watch the film, look at things we didn't do well, then move on and get ready for the next.
"We will flush it. We will flush it."