December 2, 2009 in Sports

Elite teams leave marks

Baylor, Stanford impress Idaho, GU
By The Spokesman-Review
 
Associated Press photo

Idaho’s Yinka Olorunnife tries to get past 6-foot-8 Baylor center Brittney Griner during the Baylor tournament last week in Waco, Texas.
(Full-size photo)

Coming up

Gonzaga makes a quick trip to Montana State (5-1) on Friday and then returns home to face Cal State Northridge (1-4) Sunday afternoon. … Cal State plays at Eastern Washington on Friday. … Idaho (1-5) continues a four-game homestand against Wyoming (5-0) on Thursday and Saint Mary’s (3-3) on Sunday. … Washington State (2-3) gets Saint Mary’s on Thursday and Wyoming on Saturday.

Idaho and Gonzaga peeked into the penthouse of women’s basketball last weekend.

Idaho’s Vandals went to Baylor’s tournament and absorbed an 82-37 shellacking at the hands of the eighth-ranked Bears and 6-foot-8 freshman sensation Brittney Griner. Two days later, second-ranked Stanford administered a 105-74 beat-down on GU’s Bulldogs.

“They’re an extremely talented team,” Vandals coach Jon Newlee said. “Griner is unbelievable in person. She’s really a game changer on both ends.”

And that was with Griner, who has dunked this season, only scoring six points – although she averaged 16.5 points, 9.3 rebounds and six blocks while averaging just 24 minutes a game in Baylor’s four wins last week.

“It was an awesome thing to see,” Newlee said. “It’s great for the game. I just have to find my own Griner.”

GU coach Kelly Graves had a similar appraisal of Stanford.

“They’re legit,” he said. “The consensus is there is (No. 1) Connecticut and Stanford and everybody else is a notch below. That’s the word out there. They looked every bit where they should be.”

Graves was pleased with the offense, but not with the other end of the floor.

“Our offense can score,” he said. “Our defense is what will allow us to play longer in the postseason. We’ve got to be able to defend and we couldn’t. … Our kids learned they have a ways to go. They have to be more physical, have to take care of details … but the reality on that day is they were going to beat anyone in the country, maybe even including Connecticut. I think she (Stanford coach Tara Vanderveer) got (UConn’s) attention.”

Graves said he hoped his team learned from the experience, but in the long run didn’t think there would be a negative to the big loss.

“One way it will help us, everybody is going to suffer by comparison with Stanford,” he said. “They’re so big, so good and so well coached.”

Stanford takes two weeks off for finals before No. 20 DePaul, No. 11 Duke and No. 6 Tennessee visit in a six-day span. The Cardinal then go to UConn on Dec. 23.

Gonzaga will have its own test in that span with a trip to Las Vegas to meet Baylor and No. 10 Texas A&M.

“Gonzaga is pretty athletic – (that) will help them,” Newlee said. “We’re not near as athletic, but they don’t have anybody like Griner, either. That’s going to be an issue for them, for sure. They’re not going to get easy points in the paint, (but Gonzaga is) tough. I think they’ll give them a great game. Baylor is still finding their way … they’re young.”

No tip

Griner intimidated the Vandals before the game started in Waco, Texas. Newlee sent 5-8 freshman Natasha Helsham out for the tip and put the other four players back on defense.

“Let’s be real,” he said. “We wanted to get back in our defense in case they were going to run a play off the tip.”

Griner is the seventh woman to dunk in college.

It’s not too early to start hoping Baylor ends up in Spokane for the 2011 NCAA tournament.

Tip-ins

After losing to Rutgers 66-51 in the Virgin Islands, USC, which lost 70-58 at Gonzaga, defeated No. 13 Texas 61-54 and No. 19 Mississippi State 70-58. … Eastern Washington ended Memphis’ three-game winning streak with a 58-54 decision by holding Brittany Carter to 19 points, two days after she had a school- and tournament-record 49 in a 98-83 win over Sacramento State in the Husky Classic. The Hornets turned around and beat Washington 74-71 after the Huskies had whipped EWU 64-46.

Highly regarded freshman Joslyn Tinkle missed Stanford’s game with Gonzaga because of a foot injury that could keep her out of action for another month. The daughter of Ferris graduate and Montana men’s coach Wayne Tinkle played a lot of summer ball in Spokane tournaments… . Central Valley grad Selena Levitt has returned to action at Eastern Oregon after a severe ankle sprain. Pullman native Alyssa Garro had 20 points in a recent EO loss toss. … In Portland’s 75-71 win over Portland State last week, Pilots junior Tara Cronin (Gonzaga Prep) had a career-high nine assists. PSU junior starters Lexi Bishop (Shadle Park) and Kelli Valentine (Mead) had eight and seven points, respectively. … Dara Zack, a junior from U-Hi, is off to a hot start for 1-2 Saint Martin’s, averaging 16 points and 9.3 rebounds. Junior Roni Jo Mielke (Harrington), also starts and averages seven points. She missed a game and sophomore Megan Teade (Colfax) started. Sophomore Kelsey Baker (Lewis and Clark) has started twice.

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