Baylor Freshmen Propel Lady Bears to Final Four

Baylor's Jordan Madden missed a layup and her teammates Kimetria Hayden and Shanay Washington couldn't reel the rebound in.

Down by five points with 2:42 left, coach Kim Mulkey could see the Lady Bears' chances at the Final Four slipping away. She gave the freshmen a piece of her mind, hoping they would remember their mistake for seasons to come.

"'You remember that offensive rebound because it might've just costs you the game. You're freshmen. You better never forget it,"' she told them. "Dang if (Hayden) doesn't come back and make the play of the game under the basket pressing.

"It's what you get with freshmen. You get the good and you get the bad."

Mulkey also gets a chance to see her second Final Four thanks to her freshmen.

Phenom Brittney Griner caught a pass, spun around and hit a short jumper with 45 seconds left to propel fourth-seeded Baylor to a 51-48 win over No. 2 seed Duke on Monday night for its second trip ever to the Final Four.

"It's almost surreal how we won that game," Mulkey said.

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The Lady Bears will face either overall No. 1 seed Connecticut, who is as experienced as Baylor is young, or Florida State. Mulkey led the Lady Bears to the national championship in 2005 in their only other appearance in Final Four.

After the Lady Bears trailed most of the second half, Hayden helped swing the momentum by stealing an inbounds pass by Joy Cheek, dishing it to Melissa Jones for a layup with 2:10 left that pulled the Lady Bears within one. Jones, who finished with 10 points, also hit a pair of free throws with 26 seconds left, forcing Duke (30-6) to scramble.

The Blue Devils led by as many as 10 and held a 46-38 advantage with 4:59 left before a pair of free throws by Hayden launched a 13-2 run for the Lady Bears (27-9) and Duke began to scramble.

Krystal Thomas spent 26 minutes guarding Griner in the paint before fouling out with 2:17 left. That cleared the way for Griner, who hit the game-winning shot over Cheek's extended arm.

"When Krystal Thomas was fouled out, that's the game. That's the story. That's it," Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said. "If you take our best 6-4 player out of the game for the last 3 minutes, it changes the game enormously. And they took advantage."

Two 3-point attempts by Cheek in the last 17 seconds bounced off the rim as the Blue Devils missed their last nine shots and a chance at their first Final Four since 2006.

Griner just missed her third triple-double of the season, finishing with 15 points, 11 rebounds and nine blocks.

Both teams struggled early. Duke missed its first 10 shots from the floor, but Baylor only held a 7-1 lead 5½ minutes into the game.

The game was every bit the defensive battle that was expected, with Baylor shooting 27.6 percent and Duke 24.2 percent in the first half. The Lady Bears have held each of their opponents in the NCAA tournament to under 35 percent shooting.

Griner, who blocked 14 shots in the second round against Georgetown to set an NCAA tournament single-game record, has 35 through four tournament games. That broke the previous record of 30 by Duke's Alison Bales in 2006.

"When you have somebody in the paint with shot-blocking ability like that, it can make it difficult for you to take the shots you want to take," Cheek said.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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