AP Basketball Writer
POSTED: 09:05 a.m. HST, Nov 15, 2012
WACO, Texas » Brittney Griner is going to temporarily trade her longboard for a surfboard, and coach Kim Mulkey was flashing a "Hang Loose" sign and talking about how much fun top-ranked Baylor is going to have in Hawaii.
The 6-foot-8 two-time All-American plans to try surfing, along with a team snorkeling adventure and visits by the Lady Bears to Pearl Harbor and a wounded warriors unit at Schofield Barracks in Honolulu.
But the main reason the defending national champion Lady Bears will be in Hawaii is for the Rainbow Wahine Tournament that begins Friday with their NCAA semifinal rematch against fourth-ranked Stanford.
"There are a couple of challenges, Stanford obviously, but you have Tennessee-Martin, who I think won their league, then you turn around and play Hawaii on their home floor," Mulkey said. "It's not like we're going out there to play teams that can't play. Yet at the same time, you want to have fun, and you also want to use it as an educational opportunity."
Baylor (2-0) has won 42 games in a row since losing an NCAA regional final to Texas A&M in March 2011. The Lady Bears beat Stanford 59-47 in Denver last April, ending the Cardinals' school-record 32-game winning streak.
While the Lady Bears returned every starter, including Griner and preseason All-American guard Odyssey Sims, Stanford is without graduated All-American center Nnemkadi Ogwumike.
The Cardinal (2-0) still have Ogwumike's sister, 6-3 junior Chiney Ogwumike, a preseason All-American, and coach Tara VanDerveer. But there are also five sophomores and five freshmen on the roster, with forward Joslyn Tinkle the only senior.
"We're going to do a lot of the same things (from the Final Four). We're going to learn from the things that we did last time and do a lot of the same attack," VanDerveer said. "It is different without Nneka. But Chiney is playing very well, Jos is playing very well, Amber's playing very well. We have our 'big three' and we need it to be four, five, six or seven. We need really major contributions from a lot of people."
Stanford is coming off a 92-57 win over Santa Clara, and has three players averaging double-figure scoring: Ogwumike (22.5 ppg, 12 rpg), Tinkle (19.5 ppg) and sophomore guard Amber Orrange (16 ppg), like Ogwumike a Texas native.
At the Final Four, Stanford constantly double-teamed Griner, who finished with 13 points and nine rebounds. Stanford had a 31-29 lead early in the second half before Jordan Madden keyed an 11-1 run, and the Lady Bears led by at least six the rest of the way.
"I think the fact that we played them last year helps us this time around, but it probably also helps them too in that they know our team a little bit better," VanDerveer said. "Our team is excited about it. It's not like you're going to end your season with one game. ... We'll learn a lot about ourselves and it's a win-win. If you win the game, great. And if you don't win the game it's great because you played them."
The rematch in scenic Hawaii won't be seen by many people since there's no television broadcast.
"We're not rebuilding, we're restructuring," said Chiney Ogwumike, who fouled out midway through the second half in April with only four points. "There's vulnerability within that but at the same time we're building something special."
Baylor also has three double-figure scorers, led by Griner's 25.5 points and 6.5 rebounds while playing only 23Ω minutes a game. Sims has averaged 14.5 points and 7 assists, and Destiny Williams has 11 points and 9.5 rebounds a game.
In what was supposed to be their first real challenge, the Lady Bears overwhelmed sixth-ranked and defending SEC champion Kentucky 85-51 Tuesday night before flying to Hawaii the next morning.
After unfurling their 2012 national championship banner before the game, Baylor built a 46-19 halftime lead over Kentucky. A'dia Mathies, the reigning SEC player of the year, was held to 12 points.
"Look, I have a lot of weapons on that floor to work with," Mulkey said. "We can talk about every player imaginable, but let me tell you something, Jordan Madden guarded the SEC player of the year. The SEC player was 3 for 18 (shooting), so let's not forget those kids. They don't worry about their stats. They contribute, and we can't win without them."
Griner was asked what she looked forward to most in Hawaii going to the beach and surfing, or going against Stanford and Chiney Ogwumike.
"Both and both, really," Griner said. "Just play, and then on the other side, it's Hawaii. I'm looking forward to all of it really."