Stanford/Baylor first-half blog

The defenses had the upper hand in the first half of the Final Four tilt, as Stanford turnovers and horrific shooting all around predominated. Baylor leads only 25-23, however, after great defensive strategy has negated Brittney Griner and kept the Cardinal firmly in it.

Pregame

I know he beat Andrew Luck for a Heisman and is trying to push him for the No. 1 pick, so maybe I'm not supposed to say this. But, as we see him interviewed pregame (ad nauseum), Robert Griffin III seems like a nice guy. It's a predictable angle though, using a better-known sport as a bridge to introduce the viewing public to women's basketball.

Congrats to Notre Dame for knocking out Connecticut in overtime. Seems like a great result for us. I know there's no love lost here for Connecticut, but I also think Notre Dame would be an easier out. That it took an extra five minutes out of the Irish's legs can't hurt either.

First half

The teams trade baskets, then Brittney Griner wins round one against Nnemkadi Ogwumike. After Nneka puts a layup long, Griner goes down low on consecutive possessions for five points and a foul off Nneka, despite a near-constant double team. The sequence sends our MVP to the bench. Coach VanDerveer is being too conservative for my tastes here by pulling Nneka after all of one foul, and having us use nearly all the shot clock each possession. Sure, it means fewer possessions for Griner and the Bears, but it means fewer possessions for us too. More importantly, we're rushing up poor shots because we aren't running our full offense. (Of course, Baylor's D may have something to do with it.) Anyway, at 2-of-9 shooting and with Nneka out, we're lucky it's close early and would do well to stay within striking margin.

16-minute mark: Baylor 7, Stanford 4

Take back those complaints about the offense – we come back out with a sweet backdoor cut to Chiney Ogwumike and then Bonnie Samuelson knocks down an open J. Baylor keeps scoring as well though, in no small part because we have to give up open looks if we're going to double Griner. Pick your poison. We pick wisely, though, as Baylor's guards miss several wide-open looks, and all of sudden we're eight minutes into this game and staying within a point. Guess Tara's an all-world coach for a reason after all. Next four minutes, how about we drive at Griner and try to draw some fouls?

12-minute mark: Baylor 12, Stanford 11

Coach says we're shooting too early in the clock but playing confidently. We have committed zero turnovers thus far though, which is key if we're going to knock off Goliath tonight. And Nneka has shot it five times already, presumably against Griner much of the time. Meanwhile, as the announcers rightfully point out (and I think they're doing a pretty good job tonight), Griner has all of one shot in the first ten minutes. Griner does score, but on a jumper, and I throw my hands up – how do you defend that when you're so focused on her post game and double teaming her half the time as is?

The elder Ogwumike comes back with an and one, as we continue to do a nice job of drawing Griner out of the post. In fact, we're neutralizing her on both sides of the court. Griner is now flashing out to the free throw line extended because her teammates can't feed her the ball down low. Wow, wow, wow. And we continue to pull down a ton of O boards. If we weren't ice cold deep (1-of-9), we'd have a decent lead.

Eight-minute mark: Stanford 18, Baylor 16

I'd be steaming mad if I were a Baylor fan right now, as Toni Kokenis has no one within five feet of her on a backdoor cut layup – and that's the third time we've scored on the same look. Baylor has two layups off steals near half-court, so hopefully we can clean that up at halftime. How about Bonnie Samuelson, who's 3-of-4? She's the only Card to have made a three thus far, while some of her teammates appear intimidated by the stage and are barely hitting rim, if at all.

Four-minute mark: Stanford 23, Baylor 21

Kim Mulkey is rocking blue pants and a pink and purple sweater. Still, that's like wearing gray for the rest of us. We draw a frustration foul against Griner, her first, after she's beat for a rebound.

The quickest first half I've seen in a loooong time starts to wind down with yet another Odyssey Sims strip and score. Nneka is then rushed into a catch-and-chuck three, which she leaves short, but Stanford then forces a shot clock violation with 18 seconds left. However, Amber Orrange can do no better than get off an off-balance, last-second prayer after the ball ends up on the floor in a scrum.

It has been one ugly first half, but hey, we're only down two. Nneka and Kokenis each have seven, as does Griner. Nneka says we're doing well defensively but need to work on our offense, agreed. Meanwhile, Griner says she can defend on the perimeter, but it's problematic because it leaves the paint open. I agree here too, and it'll be interesting to see how each team adjusts at the half. Personally, I like the minds in our corner.

Halftime: Baylor 25, Stanford 23


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