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NCAA: Devils Dismiss Aztecs, 66-58
Player by Player
 
NCAA: Bears Dash Devil Dreams, 51-48
The Nutshell
Previewing #4 Baylor
By Rob Clough
March 28, 2010

Jasmine and Griner and Bears, Oh My!


Baylor's upset win over Tennessee was a fascinating game to watch in terms of coaching strategy and match-ups. Tennessee won 30+ games because of their depth, shooting, but above all else, their size. Having 6-5 Kelley Cain and several other players 6-2 and taller meant that they could simply pound the ball inside, and most teams couldn't keep up. At the same time, I noted that this Tennessee team doesn't force a lot of turnovers nor apply much ball pressure. They were content to use their size and rebounding prowess to force other teams into bad shots, using sheer brute force to overpower teams. It certainly worked against Brittney Griner the first time these two teams met, as Griner and her teammates faced a real disconnect on how to work effectively. It was obvious in their Elite Eight game that any disconnect has been nicely repaired, as her teammates (and point guard Kelli Griffin in particular) did a brilliant job in getting her the ball in great scoring position. She set up on either block and made a series of simple moves to either move around the shorter Lady Vol defenders or get fouled. Griner getting Cain into foul trouble a minute into the game hurt Tennessee. That was especially true since Baylor was having trouble scoring early on and UT was only getting scores from jump-shooting. If they had had Cain in the first half, they may have had a chance to build a bigger lead.

That didn't happen, and Griner not only was scoring whenever she got single coverage, she found her teammates for easy scores when Tennessee went to double or even triple teams. Baylor hit enough shots over Tennessee's zones to get them out of it, and when they weren't hitting shots, they simply passed over the zone to Griner. What impressed me the most about Griner was her defense. She was so calm and focused on the floor that she would let Tennessee players drive by her and then simply block their shot from behind, fairly ripping the ball out of their hands.

It's fair to say that if Duke uses Tennessee's approach, they will have no chance to win. Duke can't overpower Griner inside. Instead, Duke's post focus needs to be on rebounding, especially in getting second chances. Tennessee actually won the rebounding battle and had 17 offensive rebounds. The Devils will not be able to hit the sort of driving shots they make against other teams, especially not one-on-one.

Duke holds one significant advantage against Baylor: team speed. While not a slow team, Duke's quickness at all positions means that they will pressure the ball in a way that Tennessee could not. Baylor has seen plenty of pressure this year in the Big XII, but Duke's hope is that the variety of defenses they use and their quick hands will be able to force turnovers from Griffin and Jones. When Griner gets the ball, Duke won't double team so much as to force a bad shot, but rather to try and dig the ball out of her hands. The lower she keeps the ball, the better chance Duke will have in forcing a turnover.

Offensively, Duke needs to mix things up off the dribble, sending multiple players to the rim in an effort to use that speed to get baskets and possibly draw fouls. Elbow jumpers and threes will be available all game long, but the Devils have to be careful not to rely on them too much. There will be times when Duke might actually go small with Joy Cheek as the center in an attempt to draw Griner out. That will require Cheek to hit her open shots (not always easy), but this is something she can do. Of course, if Duke can get Griner in foul trouble, things get much easier. They would be able to attack inside and extend their defense.

It should be noted that another big reason why Baylor won is that their supporting cast stepped up with some big shots. Medlock had 12 points and 11 rebounds. The bench scored 21 points, including a couple of crucial threes. Even if Griner goes wild, Duke has the ability to shut down everyone else. Duke has to do what Tennessee didn't: close out on shooters quickly and rush their shots. Duke will also need to keep Baylor off the foul line. This game will be a huge challenge for Duke, but it's one they're more than capable of overcoming.

Editor's Note: Our Baylor regional capsule is repeated below...

Record: 26-9, 9-7 Big XII

The Roster: Of course, 6-8 center Brittney Griner is the focal point of this team. She's the next evolutionary step of women's basketball: an agile, athletic and fearsome power player who happens to tower over all of her opponents. As a freshman, she's averaged 18 ppg, 9 rpg and 6 bpg. There's actually quite a bit of balance and depth on this squad, as forward Morghan Medlock averages 10 ppg and 8 rpg and guard Melissa Jones puts up 11 ppg and 7 rpg while shooting 36% from three. Kelli Griffin is the team's playmaker, averaging nearly 6 apg to go with 8 ppg. Frosh wing Shanay Washington averages 8 ppg and 3 rpg. Forward Ashley Field and guards Kimetria Hayden & Jordan Madden all average between and 5 & 6 ppg and about 3 rpg.

The Skinny: Griner has steadily improved as the season's progressed, and will be facing Tennessee in the Sweet Sixteen after playing them in her first college game. Griner's youth and temper have gotten the best of her in a number of games, including the well-publicized punching incident. Still, her upside is unlimited, as she's now working on her jump shot and free throws. This is a team that hasn't played with a lot of elegance or style and has struggled when Griner has struggled. Medlock and Jones are solid veterans but don't come close to matching the star power of Tennessee. Still, if Griner gets going and the role players maximize their potential, we could see quite a battle in the other half of this regional.



NCAA: Devils Dismiss Aztecs, 66-58
Player by Player
 
NCAA: Bears Dash Devil Dreams, 51-48
The Nutshell

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