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 –

against Baylor.

”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

them coming.”

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

something special.”

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.”