Posted: Monday April 4, 2005 12:42AM; Updated: Monday April 4, 2005 12:42AM
Either Michigan State's Joanne P. McCallie or her Baylor counterpart, Kim Mulkey-Robertson, will claim a first women's title for their school.
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- No lead will be safe in the all-green women's national championship game Tuesday night.
Michigan State and Baylor, both in the Final Four for the first time, showed incredible resiliency in staging stirring comebacks to win the semifinal games Sunday night.
First it was Baylor (32-3) roaring back from 15 down in the first half to beat LSU 68-57. Then Michigan State (33-3) went the Lady Bears one better, rallying from 16 down for a 68-64 victory over Tennessee, the program with more tradition than any other in the sport.
So it's an all-new final -- the first time two Final Four rookies will meet for the title since Texas Tech beat Ohio State in 1993.
"A lot of people really doubted us, but we took their challenge and really rose to the occasion," Baylor's Chameka Scott said. "This win really sums up the Baylor team this season. This is what we came to do. This is what we started working for back in June."
It's also what both coaches have been working for since they took their jobs in 2000.
Baylor was 7-20 the year before Kim Mulkey-Robertson was hired after 15 years as an assistant at Louisiana Tech, where she had starred as a point guard. But she took the Lady Bears to 21 victories and got them into the NCAA tournament her first season.
Mulkey-Robertson didn't stop there. Now the Lady Bears have a chance to write one final chapter in a remarkable story of redemption for their campus and community, which was stained by the shooting death of a men's basketball player and the subsequent disclosure of NCAA violations in that program.
Michigan State went 10-18 after coach Joanne P. McCallie took over in 2000, but she worked hard at signing Michigan high school players and the Spartans just kept getting better. And now this _ playing on the final night of the season against another program that had never before reached this stage.
"I think it speaks to the fact there's growth and exciting things happening in women's basketball," McCallie said. "It's exciting for people to learn more about other teams, to see that teams are growing and parity is just growing."
Baylor goes in with the nation's longest winning streak in women's hoops, 19 games. Michigan State is right behind with 17 straight wins. And there's that other, verdant similarity.
"It's an all-green national championship," McCallie said. "We're very excited about that."
Michigan State's colors are green and white. Baylor's are green and gold.
While the adrenaline was running high Sunday night, both teams have to regroup quickly after exhausting, emotional games. Can they do it?
"Oh yeah, I think we'll find a few things," McCallie said. "I feel both teams will be ready."
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