Stanford ends Baylor's win streak
Brittney Griner and Baylor were rarely challenged during a 42-game winning streak that included a national title and a quick start to this season.
But the unfamiliar scene of Hawaii and an eager opponent in No. 4 Stanford - keen on avenging a loss in the Final Four - were too much for the top-ranked Lady Bears on Friday, who fell 71-69 to the fourth-ranked Cardinal.
Griner scored 18 of her 22 points in the second half, helping the Lady Bears rally from a 14-point deficit in the first half. Her shot at the buzzer bounced off the rim and Stanford celebrated the victory. It was the Lady Bears' first defeat since losing to Texas A&M in the regional finals of the 2011 NCAA tournament. Baylor went 40-0 last year with no team coming within five points of the Lady Bears.
''You don't ever want to lose. You're in Hawaii, you're not under the normal circumstances of a regular practice schedule. You're enjoying the beach and not having as much time to prepare,'' Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said. ''We played Kentucky and had a quick tunaround to come here. It's a great schedule for us to prepare for another national championship.''
Chiney Ogwumike scored 18 points to lead the fourth-ranked Cardinal (3-0), who lost to Baylor in the national semifinals last season by 12 points. Her reverse layup gave Stanford a four-point lead with 22 seconds left, after Joslyn Tinkle broke the tie with a layup with just under 1 minute.
Destiny Williams responded with the first 3-pointer of her career to pull Baylor (2-1) within one.
Toni Kokenis made one of two free throws. Baylor got the rebound and advanced the ball to halfcourt before calling timeout to set up the final play.
Griner caught the ball in the low block and with three players draped on her, the 6-foot-8 star's shot fell harmlessly off the rim setting off a wild celebration by the Cardinal at midcourt.
''We knew where the ball was going - it's a matter if we're able to make the play. It's hard to make a play on Griner,'' Ogwumike said. ''You knew it was going to Griner and she was going to turn around and shoot.''
Baylor's run was the fifth-longest winning streak in NCAA women's history. Stanford also ended UConn's NCAA record 90-game run in 2010.
Baylor was the heavy favorite to repeat as champion with their entire starting lineup back from last season. The Lady Bears cruised to an easy 89-51 victory over No. 6 Kentucky on Tuesday before heading to Hawaii for the three-game Rainbow Wahine tournament.
Mulkey said that Baylor wasn't used to playing close games during its streak.
''We didn't respond very well, we got back in the game but we didn't execute some things and we didn't do some things defensively,'' Mulkey said.
While the Lady Bears returned so much, Stanford was without graduated All-American center Nnemkadi Ogwumike.
The untelevised, afternoon game in Honolulu was played in a mostly empty Stan Sheriff Center, an arena modeled after Baylor's home floor in Waco, Texas.
Baylor had to play the last 35 minutes of the game without preseason All-America guard Odyssey Sims, who strained her hamstring early in the first half.
''You lose your All-American point guard that early in the game, it kind of takes you out of flow of things,'' Mulkey said.
Without their playmaker, the Lady Bears fell down by 14 points before rallying to 31-29 at the break. Stanford focused on Griner on defense and took advantages of missteps by Baylor on the other end to get second chances and open looks.
Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said the Cardinal came in knowing they needed to limit Griner and play better than they did in the NCAA tournament loss.
''Our game plan was never let Brittney Griner be one on one,'' she said. ''We were doubling her as hard as we could.''
Griner was dominant in the second half, scoring 10 of Baylor's first 12 points and just under half its points for the final half. The Lady Bears gave up on 3-pointers while allowing Griner to carry them, attempting only three after ending the first half 1-for-11.
Baylor took a 55-54 lead with 7:11 left in the game on a layup from Destiny Williams. It was the Lady Bears first since early in the first half. They extended it to 4 points before Stanford rallied back behind Kokenis, who made two free throws and a jumper to tie it at 60.
The game was back and forth until the final minute when Tinkle and Chiney Ogwumike gave Stanford the lead for good.
Chiney Ogwumike was one of four Stanford players to score in double digits. Taylor Greenfield had 16 points, Kokenis had 15 and Tinkle had 11.
Mulkey said it wasn't a well-played game.
''It's been a long time since that bunch lost. I hope they feel like anybody or any competitor feels after a game that you lose,'' Mulkey said. ''I hope they don't forget it and it bothers them.''
Griner said the lesson is clear.
''We haven't faced adversity like we did. We'll learn from it,'' she said.