NCAA

Stanford OK being underdog vs. Baylor

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Stanford OK being underdog vs. Baylor

DENVER (AP) -- An hour after losing in last season's regional finals, Brittney Griner sent Baylor coach Kim Mulkey a text.The message was simple: the 6-foot-8 junior phenom took responsibility for the loss and said it wouldn't happen again.So far Griner has fulfilled her promise, helping Baylor to an undefeated season and has the team two victories away from the first 40-win season in NCAA history."She was the only kid that texted me within an hour of the loss," Mulkey said. "She said she was sorry that she didn't deliver. When you have a kid as talented as she is, you knew she was going to come back an even better player. She's stronger, she's forceful. She's dominant."
KILLION: Griner and Ogwumike finally to square off
Standing in the way of a second national championship for Baylor (38-0) are Stanford and the Ogwumike sisters. The Cardinal (35-1) are making their fifth straight trip to the Final Four and are hoping to win their first title in 20 years.While Stanford and Baylor haven't played each other in four seasons, the other semifinal game features two teams who know each other inside and out. Notre Dame and Connecticut are facing each other for the eighth time in the past 14 months."I'd much rather play teams you don't know so much about," Mulkey said. "I don't think we played Stanford since Nneka is a freshman. Have to make sure I'm not overmedicated and forgotten something. We are familiar with Stanford."These two teams haven't played since 2008 - the year before Griner showed up, but Nnemkadi Ogwumike is eager for the chance. Ogwumike faced Griner in an AAU game back in high school, and that's when she insists she learned to shoot 3-pointers because scoring in the paint was a big problem. But the senior feels like everybody else in the country has already faced Griner, and now she's finally getting that chance in her NCAA tournament farewell.
RELATED: Stanford's Ogwumike sisters eager to face Griner
"I'm very excited to finally get a chance to play against her," Nnemkadi Ogwumike said. "I feel like I'm the only person who hasn't played against her, it's a big challenge. I'm never one person to win easy. For us to come out and do what we need to do to win this game would be a really great accomplishment for us."Mulkey was dismissing her bout with Bell's palsy as more of an inconvenience than anything else. She announced Thursday that she was suffering from the disorder of the nerve."Don't ask me to smile," Mulkey said. "I think the distortion of the face is mild compared to cases I've seen before. The biggest problem I've had is my eyes, the light, the tears and dryness is all a part of it. The distortion, I'm just another ugly coach anyway. I'm not vain so it doesn't matter."Baylor has been focused with the mantra of "Unfinished Business" all season long. Every player on the team is wearing a wristband with the two words on it. Mulkey said the team used the same motto the year it won its only title in 2005. The Lady Bears had been knocked out the year before on a tough last-second lost.They want a national championship, and until they get it, I just feel like they feel it's unfinished business," Mulkey said. "Now, I know this, that if we go out on that floor and somebody beats us, I believe in my whole heart that we will be OK, because they're going to have to play well. They're going to have to play well and how can you be disappointed if somebody just plays better than you and you played just about as well as you could play? And that's how we're going to approach it."Stanford could easily claim that motto for itself, having matched UConn and LSU with its five-year Final Four run. But Ogwumike says the Cardinal don't use that for extra motivation."I can honestly say that it hasn't been a focus of our team," she said. "I think more so last year than it was this year at all. It was devastating when we lost last year. This year it's a new team, a fresh team. They understand what hard work really takes to get here. No one pays attention to us."It's hard to ignore Stanford, which has won a school-record 32 straight games. The Cardinal's only loss this season came at Connecticut in early November. Still few people are giving the Cardinal much of a chance to win seeing them as a heavier underdog."I don't think we go into many games where we're not expected to win," Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. "This game, there might not be anyone in this room besides me that thinks we are going to win."Playing the underdog role doesn't bother Ogwumike."I'm here having fun with my team, I'm excited, ready to play, not just going to give on Sunday," she said. "I'll give it all I got especially because I'm a senior, it's my last hurrah you got to go out with a bang."

Cal fights USC into fourth quarter, can't complete the upset

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AP

Cal fights USC into fourth quarter, can't complete the upset

BOX SCORE

BERKELEY -- Stephen Carr ran for a fourth-quarter touchdown two plays after Southern California's defense forced one of its six turnovers and the fifth-ranked Trojans won their 13th straight game, 30-20 over California on Saturday.

USC (4-0, 2-0 Pac-12) has dominated the series with its in-state rival by winning 14 straight against the Golden Bears (3-1, 0-1), but this was one of the tightest matchups in years as the game was tied early in the fourth quarter.

Sam Darnold threw for 223 yards and two touchdowns for the Trojans but also had an interception and was under pressure for much of the day.

It was the defense that stepped up for USC, intercepting a pass from Ross Bowers in the first quarter to set up a field goal and then delivering the big play early in the fourth quarter after Chase McGrath gave the Trojans a 16-13 lead with his third field goal of the game.

Josh Fatu knocked the ball out of Bowers' hand and Uchenna Nwosu recovered the fumble at the 3. Carr ran it in two plays later from the 2 to make it 23-13.

Ykili Ross then intercepted Bowers' pass on the next possession, setting up Darnold's 4-yard TD pass to Deontay Burnett that put away the game.

Bowers finished 22 for 50 for 303 yards with one touchdown, four interceptions and two lost fumbles.

THE TAKEAWAY

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: The Trojans struggled for much of the game without starting RB Ronald Jones (ankle) and WR Steven Mitchell (groin) but managed to pull away late in their first road game of the season.

CALIFORNIA: The Bears used an improved defense to start 3-0 under first-year coach Justin Wilcox but this was supposed to be the test of how far they had come. Cal showed plenty by sticking with a national title contender for three quarters. A sequence on the opening drive of the second will haunt the Bears. Patrick Laird dropped a potential TD in the end zone and Matt Anderson then missed a 29-yard field goal that kept the game tied at 13.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

A win against an unranked team should do little to alter USC's poll position.

UP NEXT

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: Visits No. 18 Washington State on Friday.

CALIFORNIA: Visits No. 24 Oregon on Saturday.

From feeding homeless to doing the splits, Stanford's Phillips a rare find

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From feeding homeless to doing the splits, Stanford's Phillips a rare find

Stanford has a penchant for recruiting the overachieving student-athlete. Even among those standards, Harrison Phillips is a rare find. The senior defensive tackle helps feed the homeless every Friday morning at a local shelter. He often visits the kids in the oncology ward at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital. He was named to the Pac-12 All Academic First Team and will graduate in December with a double major and a minor. He is a team captain and heir apparent to Solomon Thomas, the 49ers third overall pick in this year’s NFL draft.

“One thing you love about Harrison is, every day he’s going to get something done,” head coach David Shaw told NBC Sports Bay Area. “On the field, off the field, in the community, he’s always got a million things going on. But nothing ever suffers.

"He does everything at a high level.”

At 6-foot-4, 290 pounds, Phillips is a mountain of a man. His skill set is different than that of Thomas, but he can be just as disruptive. He plays over the center. He plays over the guards. His self-proclaimed job is to eat as many blocks as possible to keep the linebackers free.

“He’s such that hard point for us. He’s that guy up front that’s getting knock back, that force in the run game that you gotta have,” defensive coordinator Lance Anderson explained. “You have to have that strong solid point in the middle of your defense, and he provides that.”

Phillips had a game-high 11 tackles, five of them solo, in the Cardinal’s loss to USC. No other defensive lineman on the field had more than three.

“He’s outstanding against the run. He’s a very good pass rusher,” Shaw added. “He’s got a lot of tools that can work inside.”

Phillips main instruments of domination are strength, knowledge of leverage and abnormal flexibility for a man of his size.

“He can do the splits on command,” Thomas said laughing from in front of his locker after a recent 49ers practice. “He loves showing it off. We get on him for it. But he loves doing it.

And, according to Thomas, his former Stanford teammate loves to bench. So it comes as no surprise that Phillips’ upper body strength stands out.

“He’ll be really low in a position that you think he’d get knocked over in,” Thomas explained. “Because of how flexible he is, it’s not a problem for him to get in that position and stay there and move on from there. It definitely shows up on his film.”

No doubt, Phillips says, that ability comes from his wrestling experience. His high school curriculum vitae includes, “Nebraska State Wrestling Champion, Heavy Weight Division, Sophomore, Junior and Senior years.”

Phillips first year on The Farm, he vividly remembers his Stanford coaches testing him. Just a mere 245 pounds at the time, they put him up against Joshua Garnett and Andrus Peat, two offensive linemen now in the NFL and each well over 300 pounds.

“They’d double team me, almost 700 pounds on you, and I would somehow find leverage and be able to sit on some of those double teams,” Phillips said. “I think the violence that wrestling brings, and balance and being comfortable in weird positions, wrestling has a ton of scrambling, as it's called, you just know your body and know what you can do. I have tremendous flexibility, and I use everything to my advantage.”

One thing Phillips is not allowed to do is use his explosiveness away from the football field. At one time, Phillips could do a back flip off the wall, but he no longer attempts it.

“I’m not a big fan of the back hand springs,” Shaw said. “I’d like for him to stay on his feet.”

Phillips doesn’t argue. He lost his entire sophomore year to a knee injury, and doesn’t want to risk another. He has NFL aspirations and put himself in position to graduate in three-and-a-half years should he choose to enter the 2018 draft. But just as he has done at Stanford, he is looking to be more than just a name on a jersey should he play on a professional level.

“I want to build something that is really lasting,” Phillips said of his life goal, “and put my name on something to touch people’s lives and change people’s lives, pay it forward as much as I can.”