Round 4 of Baylor-Texas A&M for Final Four berth
If Baylor is going to get to the NCAA Final Four for the second
year in a row, Brittney Griner and the top-seeded Lady Bears are
going to have to figure out how to beat Texas A&M for the
fourth time this season.
While Baylor (34-2) has won eight games in a row against its Big
12 rival, the three games this season have been by a combined 15
So, Aggies coach Gary Blair, is it better to be the team trying
to win for the fourth time or the one trying to break through for
the first time when it matters the most?
”Shoot, what would some of the big-timers do with that
question? I can just hear Bobby Knight. But I like my chances,”
Blair said. ”We didn’t struggle against Baylor, we had three damn
good ball games.”
The much-anticipated matchup when the NCAA brackets came out
three weeks ago is here. The Big 12’s top two teams play in the
Dallas Regional championship Tuesday night.
Baylor coach Kim Mulkey cringed when her Big 12 champion Lady
Bears and Texas A&M were made the top two seeds in the same
”It was a shock to me that they would do that to us. It was a
shock. And Gary knows it was a shock to him,” Mulkey said Monday.
”When we shook hands at the Big 12 tournament, we were like we can
get there, we’re telling each other we’ll see you in the Final
Four. That’s basically the conversations that were taking place
between me and him and the players.”
Except the familiar foes are now in each other’s way. Baylor is
trying to get to its third Final Four in seven seasons, and the
Aggies (30-5) are trying to get there for the first time.
The Lady Bears had to overcome a nine-point deficit midway
through the second half at home last month to beat Texas A&M.
They then had to come back from Texas A&M’s 12-0 start in the
Big 12 tournament championship game three weeks ago.
”You just have to have a lot of respect for A&M. Every time
we’ve played them it’s just been close,” Bears senior guard
Melissa Jones said. ”Every game has been a battle. And that’s what
we’ll expect again this time around.”
Since their 61-58 loss in the Big 12 championship, the Aggies
have won their three NCAA tournament games by an average margin of
34 points. They had a 79-38 rout against Georgia on Sunday, just
before Baylor had to hold off feisty Green Bay 86-76 in a game when
Griner had a career-high 40 points with 10 rebounds and six blocked
And now the Aggies have the matchup they were hoping for with
another chance against Baylor.
”We’ve looked for this opportunity since we lost to them in the
Big 12 championship,” Aggies leading scorer Danielle Adams said.
”I mean, the first three times we played them, we weren’t quite
there, and we played them close.”
Adams certainly hasn’t been herself against Baylor.
While Adams averages 22.7 points a game and is shooting 49
percent from the field for the season, those figures are cut in
half for the three games against Griner and Co. The 6-foot-1 senior
is 12 of 50 (24 percent) from the field and had three of her four
lowest-scoring games of the season – 13, nine and 12 points –
”A lot of it is Danielle has rushed her shots, even though 90
percent of the time she’s been guarded by Destiny Williams or
Brooklyn Pope. But Griner is nearby,” Blair said. ”Just like in
the men’s game, when you would have Chamberlain or Alcindor, they
would influence the game because in the corner of your eye you see
Baylor will be trying to accomplish something rarely done in
men’s or women’s basketball.
Since 1996-97, the only time a women’s team defeated another
four times in the same season was Oral Roberts over Missouri-Kansas
City in 2004-05, according to STATS LLC. The only time it’s
happened on the men’s side during that span was Michigan State over
Wisconsin in 1999-2000.
Don’t expect any trickery from Mulkey or Blair, who was an
assistant coach at Louisiana Tech when Mulkey was the point guard
and they won two national championships in the early 1980s.
”Well, the challenge is what are either of us going to do
differently. He’s not going to change what got him here. I’m not
going to change what got us here,” Mulkey said. ”The players
aren’t going to change. You might tweak an inbounds or tweak a way
you’re going to guard Griner or throw a zone out there. You’re
going to do what you do best.”
Blair expects a fun and entertaining game, predicting already
that ”it will be the best basketball game, women’s game, that’s
ever been played in Dallas or maybe in Texas. … It’s going to be
Only one of them gets to go to Indianapolis, which is where
Baylor won its national championship six years ago.
”We’ve gone five times against (Baylor with Griner) now. I’ve
lost all five,” Blair said. ”But I keep knocking on that door and
I’m getting closer and closer. And if it doesn’t happen this year,
it’s going to happen next year and we’re going to keep going.”