In the end, a 6-foot-8 superstar and her all-star supporting cast was too much for Stanford's All-American sister act.
"Ultimately I think it was kind of difficult for us to really figure out what we wanted to do on offense," Stanford All-American Nneka Ogwumike said. "I think we were too worried about her."
Baylor (39-0) advanced to the national title game with a 59-47 victory over the Cardinal and will meet Notre Dame Tuesday night for a shot at history -- a chance to be the first women's team to win 40 games in a season. The Irish beat Connecticut in overtime in the other semifinal on Sunday at the Pepsi Center in Denver.
The second-ranked Cardinal (35-2) fought bravely, but its fifth straight trip turned out like all the others. Stanford is still looking for its first national title since 1992.
Stanford senior Nnemkadi Ogwumike finished with 22 points, nine rebounds and played with four fouls during crunch time. Chiney Ogwumike already was on the bench, her season over after fouling out trying to deal with Griner and company.
Stanford had its school-record 32-game winning streak snapped but will begin next season with several other streaks intact.
"I look back and reflect on what it took for us to get here, and I would have rather gone down with my team than up with any other team," Nneka said. "But when it comes down to the game, if
you look at it, yeah, we were 20 for 60, that's a lot. And I know I didn't make one 3, and I shot five of them."
Nneka Ogwumike will be playing in the WNBA a year from now and Lindy La Rocque and Grace Mashore will also have exhausted their eligibility but Cardinal coach Tara VanDerveer will have plenty of firepower to make another run.
Chiney Ogwumike, an All-American, returns along with the vastly improved Joslyn Tinkle, Amber Orrange and a dependable group of role players.
Stanford missed Jasmine Camp and Alex Green, two highly prized freshmen who were lost for the season due to injuries.
There won't be another player like Nneka, but then, that was also said of other great Stanford players in the past. Somehow the Cardinal finds a way to compete year after year.
Baylor, with an 13-1 run, built a 42-32 lead with 12:02 remaining to play, taking advantage of Chiney Ogwumike going to the bench with three fouls. Nneka was also called for her third foul during the run, delivering an illegal screen on Odyssey Sims.
"We weren't able to run our offense the same way," VanDerveer said. "You just can't make passes that you usually make. You can't attack in the same way you're used to attacking."
Stanford seemed to have lost its composure after falling behind until Chiney recorded a steal and easy layup to stop the run.
Chiney left the game with four fouls with under 10 minutes to play and suddenly the Cardinal was making too many mistakes and not making shots.
Stanford faced a big task when Baylor opened a 12-point lead, bringing Chiney back into the contest for under a minute before she committed her fifth foul and left the game for good with 7:39 left.
The biggest surprise of the first half was seeing freshman sharpshooter Bonnie Samuelson on the court so early. When she hit a couple of shots it was clear she was there to loosen up the Baylor defense.
Stanford appeared to give Griner a little too much respect, refusing to go right at her. The Cardinal did have success in drawing her out of the paint and going back door a number of times. Stanford simply refused to give her anything easy.
Statistically, the first half was fairly even, with the exception of points off turnovers that favored the Bears, 8-0. Baylor had a 13-4 advantage in that category overall.
The Cardinal only committed four turnovers in the half but each one hurt.
Baylor took a 25-23 lead into halftime.
This story contains 716 words.
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