Stanford OK being underdog vs. Baylor


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’s Sonny Dykes: Quick turnaround ‘not ideal’ for Bears


Cal’s Sonny Dykes: Quick turnaround ‘not ideal’ for Bears

BERKELEY  — Two days before California plays its second game in less than a week against a well-rested USC team, coach Sonny Dykes was still trying to figure out why the Golden Bears were put in this position.

The quick turnaround and short week following Friday's double-overtime win against Oregon forced Cal to condense its normal schedule, something that wouldn't bother Dykes so much if there weren't so many other factors involved.

The Bears already had to trim a day off their regular routine because Thursday night's game is on the road. On top of that, several Cal players are in the middle of midterm exams, reducing their availability for practice even more.

It's a topic that Dykes has been simmering over for a few weeks now and one he wasn't ready to back off of Tuesday.

"When you sit down and look at the schedule, clearly it's not ideal," Dykes said "It's one of those deals where you just go, 'How in the world did this ever happen? How could somebody let this happen?'"

Cal (4-3, 2-2 Pac-12) was coming off a 12-day break when it beat Oregon in Berkeley on Friday night in a game that lasted nearly 4 ½ hours and didn't end until almost midnight local time. The Bears ran 118 plays offensively against the Ducks, which Dykes said was the equivalent of playing two games.

On the other hand, USC (4-3, 3-2) hasn't played since thumping Arizona 48-14 on Oct. 15.

While some team would have had to play the Trojans coming off a bye, Dykes can't understand why the Bears were selected to do it on short rest — and on the road.

"We've had to make a lot of schedule changes and do a lot of different things out of the norm," Dykes said. "It's one thing to do it on six days' notice. It's another to do it on the road. But our guys have handled it well."

The Bears shortened their work week to try to get everything in.

Players were given Saturday off but were back on the field Sunday afternoon. Cal practiced on its normal day off, Monday, but several players were unable to attend due to academic responsibilities.

"The challenge you always face is making sure that you balance keeping them fresh with getting enough reps and developing your young players," Dykes said. "Just teaching them all the things you need to teach them about your opponent in a limited amount of time. We've got to balance getting some work done but at the same time making sure we're fresh."

Cal's players don't seem bothered by the quick turnaround.

Defensive back Cameron Walker and left tackle Aaron Cochran said the short week means more emphasis on studying USC and doing extra film work.

Quarterback Davis Webb, on the other hand, doesn't think it will be much of an issue at all.

"It's a challenge but I think it's a mindset at the same time," Webb said. "We understand that's how the schedule rolled for us this year and there are no excuses. We have to play a tough team on Thursday night and we look forward to the challenge. If you don't know the game plan and what they're going to do by Thursday then you're in trouble."

Chryst to make his first career start for Stanford


Chryst to make his first career start for Stanford

STANFORD  — Stanford junior Keller Chryst will make his first collegiate start at quarterback at Arizona on Saturday, coach David Shaw said Tuesday.

He'll replace senior Ryan Burns, who went 4-3 (2-3 Pac-12) in his seven starts. Burns completed nearly 63 percent of his passes for 1,058 yards and five touchdowns. He's also thrown seven interceptions.

"I hate to get to this point," Shaw said. "But it's the best thing for this offense. We need more production at that position. It's our challenge to support Keller."

Burns led the Cardinal to wins over Kansas State, Southern California and UCLA to open the season but has struggled ever since, averaging 11 points in Stanford's last four games, punctuated by Saturday's 10-5 loss to Colorado.

"It can't just be about the quarterback," Shaw said. "We need to help Keller be more effective. We need to be able to score points with this personnel."

Chryst, the son of former 49ers offensive coordinator Geep Chryst, has appeared in 10 games over the past two years, throwing for 122 yards on 12-of-27 passing. He's thrown for one touchdown and one interception.

"I've been working with both all year and they're both great people," Cardinal receiver Trent Irwin said. "Sometimes you just need a change. We'll see where it goes and have fun with it."

Stanford ranks last in the Pac-12 in scoring (17.0) and total offense (299.1). The offense has scored just 10 touchdowns all year, fewer than Washington's John Ross and Arizona State's Kalen Ballage, the conference co-leaders with 11 touchdowns.

"Both quarterbacks are good," Stanford safety Zach Hoffpauir said. "Maybe it does stimulate the offense a little bit."

NOTES: CB Elijah Holder will miss the rest of the season due to an unspecified injury. ... OL David Bright and Johnny Caspers are questionable. ... FB Daniel Marx is out