Tuesday, April 05, 2005

ATH: Baylor National Champs!



From Sports Illustrated

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- The Baylor Lady Bears simply wanted to be a shining light for a university that needed something to applaud. One dazzling national championship ought to do.

Sophia Young's 26 points, Emily Niemann's precise 3-point shooting and the brilliant, energetic play of guards Chameka Scott and Latoya Wyatt carried Baylor to a 84-62 victory over Michigan State on Tuesday night for the school's first NCAA title by a women's team.


And what a title run it was. Five years after coach Kim Mulkey-Robertson took over a team that went 7-20 and was at the bottom of the Big 12, the Lady Bears now sit at the top of their sport by winning a game between two teams playing in the finals for the first time.

"What a team I get to coach," Mulkey-Robertson said. "It wasn't the coaching, it's these guys taking me for a tremendous ride."

When the horn sounded, the Lady Bears flopped on the floor in delirious celebration as confetti sprayed all around the RCA Dome. They jumped in unison, donned championship caps and fans chanted "Mulkey, Mulkey" while the players swarmed their coach.

From The New York Times

BAYLOR 84, MICHIGAN STATE 62
Baylor Completes Remarkable Climb to Top
By JERE LONGMAN
April 5, 2005

INDIANAPOLIS, April 5 - Baylor University, which only five years ago had no tradition and even less visibility in women's basketball, completed a remarkable emergence on Tuesday night by winning its first national championship.

In a season of newcomers, when such familiar powers as Tennessee and Connecticut lost their dominance, Baylor defeated another first-timer in the N.C.A.A. title game, Michigan State, by 84-62 before 28,937 at the RCA Dome.

The Lady Bears (33-3) built a 32-13 lead in the first half with superior perimeter shooting, rebounding, bench strength, agility, patience and resolve. Forward Emily Niemann entered the game shortly after an awkward start for the Lady Bears and drained five 3-pointers in the first half, finishing with 19 points.

Center Steffanie Blackmon contributed 22 points in an overpowering performance by Baylor's front line. But it was the all-American forward Sophia Young who controlled the game with 26 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists. Although she has played organized basketball for only six years, the 6-foot-1 Young moved with a brilliant gracefulness through Michigan State's matchup zone, flowing through the Spartans' grasp like water.

Each time Michigan State (33-4) attempted a comeback, the Lady Bears counterpunched effectively. The Spartans overcame a 16-point deficit in the national semifinals against Tennessee, but Baylor was too steady and poised to come undone. The Lady Bears outrebounded Michigan State by 45-22, grabbed a 17-0 edge in second-chance points and held a 29-3 advantage in bench scoring.

The play that said everything about Baylor's pre-eminence came with 10 minutes 27 seconds remaining. Young put Baylor up by 57-40 with a free throw, missed her second attempt, chased the ball down on the sideline, saved it and later knifed inside for a layup to make it 59-40.

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