Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Sports

Two strangers meet; two rivals meet again

DENVER — An hour after losing in last season's region finals, Brittney Griner sent Baylor coach Kim Mulkey a text.

The message was simple: The 6-foot-8 junior phenom took responsibility for the loss and said it wouldn't happen again.

So far Griner has fulfilled her promise, helping Baylor to an undefeated season, two victories away from the first 40-win season in NCAA history.

"She was the only kid that texted me within an hour of the loss," Mulkey said. "She said she was sorry that she didn't deliver. When you have a kid as talented as she is, you knew she was going to come back an even better player. She's stronger, she's forceful. She's dominant."

Standing in the way of a second national title for Baylor (38-0) are Stanford and the Ogwumike sisters. The Cardinal (35-1) is making its fifth straight Final Four trip and is trying for its first title in 20 years.

While Stanford and Baylor haven't played each other in four seasons, the other semifinal features teams who know each other inside and out. Notre Dame and Connecticut are facing each other for the eighth time in the past 14 months.

"I'd much rather play teams you don't know so much about," said Mulkey, who Saturday was named Associated Press coach of the year, with Griner being named player of the year. "I don't think we played Stanford since Nneka is a freshman. Have to make sure I'm not overmedicated and forgotten something. We are familiar with Stanford."

The Huskies and Irish are very familiar with each other. Coaches Geno Auriemma of UConn and Muffet McGraw of Notre Dame say this grudge match will come down to execution and effort, with a dollop of desire mixed in.

"There's no mystery left," Notre Dame guard Brittany Mallory said. "There's not going to be any surprises. It's all about heart, who is going to play the hardest, who is going to execute and play well."

A triumphant finish

STILLWATER, Okla. — Toni Young scored 25, Tiffany Bias had 17 points and 11 assists and Oklahoma State (22-12) ended a season marked by tragedy by beating James Madison (29-8) 75-68 to win its first WNIT championship. Oklahoma State lost head coach Kurt Budke and assistant Miranda Serna in a Nov. 17 plane crash. "I have never been more proud of a group of young ladies than I have this group," said Jim Littell, Budke's former top assistant who took over after the crash. "They set the goal in November to pay honor, and I promise you they paid honor (Saturday) and in this tournament."

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