Baylor states its case: Greatest women's team ever?

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Baylor states its case: Greatest women's team ever?

From Comcast SportsNet
DENVER (AP) -- Brittney Griner took the Baylor Lady Bears to new heights. Blocking layups, snagging rebounds, hitting shots over two and three helpless defenders, all season long she towered over the competition. That left Griner with just one more task Tuesday night -- cutting down the nets. Griner had 26 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks to lead Baylor to a dominating 80-61 victory over Notre Dame in the NCAA women's basketball championship, capping an unparalleled 40-0 season for the Lady Bears. "She'll go down as one of the greatest post players in the history of the game," Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said. "I'm so glad she got that ring." When the buzzer sounded, Griner finally celebrated, hamming it up as she helped take down the nets and dancing with Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III. Then she lifted coach Mulkey up on her shoulders briefly, just the way she has done for the Lady Bears during this long season. "It meant everything for us to get it for coach," said Griner, referring to Mulkey's struggle with Bell's palsy during the tournament. "She felt like she wasn't there for us, but we told her every second that we could hear here loud and clear, everything she was saying." Baylor became the seventh women's team to run through a season unbeaten and the first in NCAA history to win 40 games. It was the second national championship for Baylor, which also won a title in 2005. "Looking back when we get older, I'm always going to remember this moment, always going to remember confetti falling and being here with my team," Griner said. Baylor did it in a nearly wire-to-wire victory, finishing with a flourish when anything less than bringing a title back to Waco would have been a huge disappointment. The 6-foot-8 Griner was right at the center of the action as the Lady Bears took control. Every time Notre Dame made a run in the second half to cut into the deficit, Griner had an answer. She showed a wide array of post moves, hitting turnaround jumpers and hooks that the Irish had no way to stop -- even when they collapsed around her. "Brittney Griner comes to work every day," Mulkey said. "A lot of great players think they're all that and they half go through drills and they come to practice and they dog it. That child comes to work and brings her work pail every day." Notre Dame fell short in the title game for the second straight season. The Irish lost to Texas A&M by six points last year. Coach Muffet McGraw's senior-heavy crew did finish the season with a decided edge over rival Connecticut -- the Irish won the Big East regular season title and defeated the Huskies in three of four meetings, including the national semifinal. But like every other team this year, Notre Dame couldn't solve Baylor and its superstar. "I think she's one of a kind," McGraw said. "There's so many things she can do. There have been some guards that have had some skill like that. But as a post player, she's the best I've seen." Griner, selected The Associated Press player of the year, also was named most outstanding player of the tournament. "We wouldn't be here without my team," the junior said. "All the awards -- none of that means anything. If I don't have my team here, we can't get this." All-American point guard Skylar Diggins did all she could to keep the Irish (36-4) in the game, scoring 20 points. But senior Natalie Novosel had just five points, going 0-for-11 from the field. Devereaux Peters, also playing in her final game, was saddled with foul trouble because of Griner. She scored seven points. Diggins "played a great game," McGraw said. "She's just a big-time player and she didn't get a lot of help today." Like Griner, Diggins has pledged to return for her senior year -- both could join the WNBA draft -- and will try to make a third run at the title. Notre Dame had an early 9-8 lead before Baylor took over with a 12-2 run. The Irish were down by 14 in the first half before cutting their deficit to 34-28 at the break. They got as close as 42-39 and had the ball, but Griner asserted herself, scoring nine of the next 19 points for Baylor to seal the victory. "They went on a run there," Diggins said. "I just remember we cut it down to three and they went on a run. I saw 10, 12, 14, 16, 19. We couldn't get rebounds when they missed shots." Odyssey Sims added 19 points and Destiny Williams had 12 for the Lady Bears, who outrebounded Notre Dame 46-27 and now have the third unbeaten season in women's basketball in the last four years. UConn, which has gone undefeated four times, did it in back-to-back years in 2009 and 2010. Texas and Tennessee also have unbeaten seasons. Baylor's victory also gave President Barack Obama some bragging rights. He correctly picked Baylor to beat Notre Dame in the title game. With 1:04 left and the game well in hand, Mulkey took out Griner and the two shared a long hug. The fiery coach then went down the bench and hugged each of her players while holding back tears. "I'm just so happy," Mulkey said. "That old saying, you're so happy you cry.' I can't quit crying.'" Mulkey, who did her net cutting with daughter Mackenzie -- who is a freshman on the team -- and son Kramer, has now won a title as a player (at Louisiana Tech), an Olympic gold medal (in 1984) and two titles as a coach. Only five women's coaches have more than one championship at the top level of NCAA competition. Mulkey has downplayed the 40 wins, noting that her former coach and mentor at Louisiana Tech Leon Barmore won 40 games in 1980. That was before women's basketball was governed by the NCAA, which didn't begin keeping records until the 1982 season. It was the second meeting between the teams this season. Baylor also won the first one, by 13 in Waco on Nov. 17. That win gave the Lady Bears the preseason WNIT title. As usual, Griner put on a show in warmups, thrilling the crowd with a series of impressive dunks -- including a one-handed throw down, a double-pump slam and another in which she hung on rim. She dunked twice in the tournament, matching Candace Parker for most dunks by a woman in NCAA tournament play and during a college career (seven). She couldn't catch one against the Irish. The Lady Bears had a strong cheering section that included Griffin -- dancing in his seat at the end of the game -- and country music star Trace Adkins. He was a freshman walk-on football player at Louisiana Tech in the early 1980s when Mulkey was a senior there. Notre Dame had its own star fan in former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who earned a graduate degree at the school. The Irish were wearing their green uniforms for the first time since last season's title loss. It didn't help. But on this night, nothing else could stop Griner, either.

Casspi thanks Kings after trade to Pelicans: 'Definitely isn't easy'

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USATSI

Casspi thanks Kings after trade to Pelicans: 'Definitely isn't easy'

The Kings traded Omri Casspi to the New Orleans Pelicans on Monday, prompting the forward to post a heartfelt message on his Instagram account.

I want to thank the Sacramento Kings organization for the opportunity to play basketball in front of the great fans of Sacramento. My wife and I felt in Sacramento like being home and this is something we both will cherish for ever. This definitely isn't easy for me and my family to leave, and you all know how much I love our city, organization and fans but the time has come. I want to wish nothing but success to my Kings. I will definitely will follow and cheer from afar. 
Always a big part of my heart, 
Omri #18

Casspi, 28, averaged 5.9 points, 4.1 rebounds and 18 minutes per game for the Kings this year.

A's spring training Day 7: Rosales readies himself everywhere

A's spring training Day 7: Rosales readies himself everywhere

MESA, Ariz. — Adam Rosales has a real simple plan for which infield position he chooses to try to get work at.

“Wherever there’s less guys, I go over there,” he explained with a smile.

The sun came out and the A’s finally got on the field for their first full-squad workout Monday after being rained out Sunday. That meant Rosales, back for his second go-round as an Athletic, got his first chance to prepare for what figures to be a super-utility role, which is how he’s carved out a nine-year major league career.

All indications are that he’ll be the primary backup infielder, capable of spelling Jed Lowrie at second base, Marcus Semien at shortstop, Trevor Plouffe at third and even fill in at first base or left field in a pinch.

Though Rosales, who spent 2010-12 with Oakland and re-signed in January on a one-year $1.25 million deal, is well-versed in preparing himself all over the diamond, one position in particular is one that he says is most difficult to master in limited time.

“Shortstop,” he offered without hesitation. “There’s a lot more going on there, a lot less room for error. At shortstop, especially with a guy like Mike Trout running, you’ve got to be in good rhythm, good timing, get rid of the ball and make an accurate throw.”

Depending on how the A’s prioritize their 25-man roster, Rosales could very well be the only backup infielder. That means fellow infielders Joey Wendle and Chad Pinder would start in the minors if the A’s were to keep a fifth outfielder or third catcher. But because the A’s have some players who can fill in at multiple spots, there’s numerous ways they can choose to configure the roster when it comes time to pare it down.

Rosales, 33, said walking back into the A’s clubhouse for the first time made him “feel like I’m back home.” So much of the support staff — equipment guys, clubhouse guys — are the same as when he was here before. He was also happy to see former infield mate Mark Ellis walk through the door Sunday. He says Ellis, a teammate from 2010-11, instilled in him the importance of being a great defender. Ellis is working as a part-time spring instructor.

“He told me, the No. 1 reason he was in the big leagues was because of this,” Rosales said, holding up his glove. “I was such a young player then. I’d always work with him, how to turn double plays. Just to have him around is awesome.”

NOTEWORTHY: Sonny Gray and Kendall Graveman were among the pitchers who faced hitters for the first time this season. Bruce Maxwell caught Gray, his first time behind the plate with Gray other than the one inning Gray threw in an abbreviated start at Anaheim toward the end of last season. Maxwell said Gray’s changeup in particular looked good.

Manager Bob Melvin has been very impressed early on with Graveman’s command. Graveman said he’s trying to improve his changeup, in an effort to induce weak contact from righties and get them on the their front foot, which could then make him more effective on the inside corner.

CAMP BATTLE: There could be a good fight for the seventh and final spot in the bullpen, and it would seem being left-handed could give someone an edge. Sean Doolittle is the only lefty currently projected among the A’s top six relievers. Melvin had good things to say about Daniel Coulombe, a lefty who made 35 appearances in relief last year and also saw a bit of time with Oakland in 2015. Coulombe posted a 4.53 ERA last season but struck out 54 in 47 2/3 innings.