Condrey steps up for Baylor in 59-47 win
With Stanford playing stifling defense on Baylor star Brittney Griner, someone else needed to step up.
Enter Terran Condrey.
The senior guard who hadn't hit double figures in more than two months suddenly found her shooting touch, scoring 10 of her 13 points in the second half to lead Baylor to a 59-47 win over Stanford on Sunday night.
Condrey's performance has the Bears (39-0) in the championship game against Notre Dame on Tuesday night. Should they win, the Bears will become the first team to turn in a 40-win season in NCAA history.
Griner, for one, was thrilled to see Condrey rescue the squad.
''It's not the first time she had done this,'' said Griner, a finalist for the player of the year award. ''She's silent, but you hear her on the court.''
Baylor definitely needed her with the Cardinal (35-2) playing a smothering brand of defense on the 6-foot-8 Griner, who was held to 13 points.
That was all part of the Stanford scheme - make someone else beat them.
Not only did Condrey deliver, but so did Odyssey Sims. She had a strong second half as well, pouring in nine of her 11 points to help Baylor pull away.
This was simply proof the Bears are far from a one-person team.
''Brittney is the face of women's basketball but we have other players,'' coach Kim Mulkey said.
The very tall and extremely athletic Griner has been so dominant over her career that she's changed the way her coach goes about preparing for a game.
Mulkey is willing to take more risks, knowing the 6-foot-8 post player is constantly lurking nearby to save the day.
''Because we have Brittney back there to help, we can gamble more,'' said Mulkey, who was recently diagnosed with Bell's palsy, a form of facial paralysis. ''I think she's made all of us change.''
And because of Griner's extraordinary talent on the floor, the Bears have seen just about every kind of defense imaginable to stop her.
Very little seems to slow Griner down as she's averaging 23 points this season. But Stanford kept her well below that output.
''They're a great team without her. But with her they're spectacular,'' Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. ''She's really a spectacular player, just someone that is really special in the women's game.
''We prepared really hard. But at the end of the day they outplayed us.''
And Condrey helped lead the way, scoring in double figures for the first time since Jan. 26 at Oklahoma when she had 14.
''Most teams double Griner and leave people open,'' Condrey said. ''We had to be ready to knock down shots.''
SIGHTINGS: Former U.S. Secretary of State and Notre Dame alum Condoleezza Rice had a front-row seat for the game and was wearing a blue sweater embroidered with an Irish logo.
Then, for the second game, Rice donned a crimson sweater to support Stanford, a school she also has ties with.
Rice wasn't the only celebrity in attendance. Baylor's Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III showed up to support the Lady Bears. He gave coach Kim Mulkey a big hug as they walked off the court.
SIBLING REVELRY: Stanford's Chiney Ogwumike has long lived in the shadow of her older sister, often drawing comparisons to her and always trying to measure up.
And while Nnemkadi Ogwumike has set the bar high, little sis has done a pretty commendable job following in her footsteps.
The senior from Cypress, Texas, had a sensational final season as she helped the Cardinal (35-2) back to the Final Four, before tumbling to Baylor 59-47 on Sunday night. Averaging 22.5 points and 10.3 rebounds, she's in the running for the John R. Wooden Award that's given to the top women's college basketball player.
Just as impressive, and maybe a little overlooked, is the splendid year of Chiney Ogwumike. She's pulling down just as many rebounds as her sibling and scoring 15 points a game. The sophomore will be the future star of the Cardinal once her sister, widely considered the No. 1 pick in the upcoming WNBA draft, departs.
The stage will belong exclusively to her. Not that she minds sharing the spotlight. It's making for great recollections.
''What I learned in this process is just to work as hard as she does and try and fill in her footsteps,'' said Chiney Ogwumike, who had an off night against the Bears as she finished with just four points before fouling out. ''Growing up I was like, `How am I going to compare?' In high school she was doing great things, winning Gatorade Awards and College Player of the Year.
''We've had so many memories. They stack up. And I'm excited to see where her journey will go and where ours will, because I have sisters on the side, too.''
Nnemkadi Ogwumike has cherished suiting up with her sister, even if it's been difficult to fully appreciate the journey. The Cardinal made their fifth straight trip to the Final Four, but couldn't capture their first title in 20 years.
''Right now everything is happening fast, but at the same time slow because I'm trying to soak in every moment,'' the senior said. ''Not everybody can say they played with their sister, and it's been a lot of fun. Definitely some ups and some downs, but mostly ups. It's been a lot of fun.''
Soon, the team will led by Chiney Ogwumike. The responsibilities will be on her shoulder.
''I'm kind of passing the torch on,'' Nnemkadi Ogwumike said. ''It's her turn to do her two years on her own like I did my first two years. I think she'll do fine, just like all my other teammates. I look forward watching her in the future.''
QUICK STUDY: A big hoops fan, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper vowed to be up to speed on the teams participating in the Final Four.
He would've sat down and filled out his bracket earlier, but with pressing budgetary concerns and then a forest fire, he simply hasn't had the time.
''Trust me, I'll know the starting lineups, the strengths and weakness of each team,'' Hickenlooper said in a recent interview with The Associated Press.
Anyone he likes?
''I haven't followed it enough. But it sounds like everyone is talking about Connecticut,'' he said.
''That's right,'' he said. ''They have ...''
''Yeah,'' Hickenlooper said. ''It will be cool to watch. It's great to get that level of athlete in one place where you get to watch them.''
Hickenlooper may not yet be well-versed on the teams, but he knows how much this championship has meant to the city. An estimated 30,000 fans are expected to arrive throughout the tournament, with the city's economy receiving about a $20 million boost.
''And I wouldn't be surprised if it was somewhere north of there,'' Hickenlooper said. ''This is a very sports-happy town. This is a very big deal.''
Not only that, but ticket sales have been sizzling. That's the power of having four elite teams making the final field, especially ones that travel well.
What's more, the 95 suites around the venue have been sold out.
''(The turnout) doesn't shock me,'' Denver Sports interim president Sue Baldwin said. ''Denver is an event town and when you combine that with teams that travel well and fans that want to see the event, it works. This is a great destination.''
As for the men possibly arriving in town one day for a Final Four, well, that's going to take some work.
More specifically, a dome over Sports Authority Field at Mile High. It's the only venue in town big enough to hold that many college basketball fans.
''It's not something we're actively pushing for,'' Baldwin said, laughing. ''It's hard to beat the experience you have at a Denver Broncos game.''