What we learned: Baylor-Stanford
Five Baylor players scored in double-digits in the upset of Stanford
Baylor's Rachel Allison was a presence in the post and from outside
Stanford was playing without PG JJ Hones, who is out with a stress fracture
WACO, Texas -- Five things we learned from Baylor's 81-65 upset of Stanford on Sunday.
1. Baylor is underrated. You can't fault Big 12 coaches for voting Oklahoma as the league's top team (Baylor was fourth). But the Bears are better than people think.
Although it's early, Baylor looked in midseason form on Sunday, showing the kind of balance on offense and tenacity on defense that contenders have. Five players put up double digits in points against Stanford, which allowed just 56.4 points a game last season. Jhasmin Player and Melissa Jones harassed the Cardinal backcourt, combining for seven steals, while Danielle Wilson was a force in the paint, knocking down six shots.
That kind of success against the No. 2 team in the country can only build confidence. The key will be carrying that over to the Big 12, where the Bears will have to bang inside with Oklahoma's Courtney Paris and slow Oklahoma State's sharpshooter, Andrea Riley. Baylor may not have anyone of that caliber (and haven't since All-America Sophia Young graduated in 2006), but the Bears proved on Sunday that they're as good as any team that does.
2. Rachel Allison has grown into a leader and big-time player. Baylor spent halftime retiring the jersey of Young, a consensus two-time All-America who led the Bears to the 2005 national title. Stanford spent it trying to figure out how to slow Rachel Allison.
The 6-1 senior forward looked like an All-America with 20 first-half points (25 overall) and she proved she could score from anywhere on the floor. After missing her first shot, Allison jump-started the Baylor offense, putting up 11 of her team's first 15 points. Improved range this season has made Allison a bigger threat. With five three-pointers already this year, she's well on pace to surpass last season's total of 14.
3. Baylor will not be outworked. With 1.3 seconds left, Bears coach Kim Mulkey called a timeout. She was still coaching, giving the reserves a few final tips. Mulkey's players followed suit, working from opening tip to the final whistle. They outhustled the Cardinal, an important factor in the victory given Stanford's size advantage.
4. Kim Mulkey has found herself quite a point guard. Late in the game, Stanford fouled Kelli Griffin on four consecutive possessions. Didn't work. She knocked down all eight of her free throws to build on Baylor's 13-point lead. Griffin did more than just help seal the game at the line, though. She did a fantastic job of hanging onto the ball, even as the Cardinal turned to the press late in the game. Griffin, who averaged 14 minutes a game as a freshman, had just two turnovers in 32 minutes on Sunday.
"Kelli grew up today," said Mulkey, a star point guard in her playing days. "I think I know who better be on the floor when we need to make free throws. As a point guard, you want to have twice as many assists as you do turnovers and she had six assists and two turnovers. Kelli ran our ball club out there. She had a sense of composure and calmness about her."
5. You don't just replace a four-time All-America. Despite the graduation of Candice Wiggins, expectations remained high for Stanford. After all, Jayne Appel is a Player of the Year candidate and Kayla Pedersen was the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year last season. Baylor shut them both down. The duo managed just 13 points and missed 12 of 17 shots.
With Pedersen and Appel facing physical battles in the paint, Stanford's shooters had plenty of open shots on the perimeter but they couldn't connect, missing 14 of 19 shots from behind the arc.
There is no need for the Cardinal to panic. They do need to find the leadership and consistency that Wiggins provided, which they may get back when point guard JJ Hones, who is out with a stress fracture, returns.
"Our team not only is without Candice, but without our starting point guard, [whose return] would allow Jeanette Pohlen to play her real position and would bring tremendous stability to our team," Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. "When you take away basically -- this is Texas -- your quarterback and your best running back, you've got trouble."
There's no reason the Cardinal can't rebound from the loss. Wiggins might have been a huge part of the program, but she's not the only one that got the Cardinal to the championship game last season, even after losses to UCLA and USC. "Sometimes you go into a fight, and this is Round 1," VanDerveer said. "We've got a big bloody nose. See us at Round 15, see where we've come."