Young, Blackmon one of best tandems in history
INDIANAPOLIS Baylor coach Kim Mulkey-Robertson has been around some pretty awesome post duos before.
Take Pam Kelly and Janice Lawrence, who were her teammates on the 1982 NCAA championship team for Louisiana Tech. How about Venus Lacey and Erica Westbrooks on the 1988 Tech team that won the title when Mulkey-Robertson was an assistant coach?
Now, as a head coach at Baylor, she has Sophia Young and Steffanie Blackmon. That duo combined for 48 points and 16 rebounds Tuesday in the 84-62 victory over Michigan State.
This was a really bad matchup for the Spartans. They're not a deep team, especially not in the post. It's very hard to contain Young and Blackmon if you don't have multiple big bodies to put on them. Even if you do, there's no guarantee that will work.
"You've got two of the best post players in the nation on your block," Baylor's Chameka Scott said. "I feel like they kind of spoil us."
With an average of 23.0 points for her six games, Young was the second-leading scorer in the NCAA Tournament. Rutgers guard Cappie Pondexter averaged a tourney-high 24 points for four games.
Young scored in double figures every game this season. With a combined 47 points, 19 rebounds and 10 assists in her two Final Four contests, Young will be giving LSU's Seimone Augustus a run for her money as preseason player of the year next fall.
Blackmon missed last year's NCAA Tournament because of a knee injury, which left her with a Frankenstein-like mark over the kneecap.
"It is so big, isn't it?" Blackmon said of the scar. But she stayed healthy all this season and hopes to play in the WNBA this summer.
She averaged 15.4 points this year and worked well with Young. They have very different personalities but are usually quite in sync on the court.
Baylor had only one game this season in which both of them were somewhat "off:" the Jan. 22 loss at Texas, in which Young had 13 points and Blackmon three. That was the last game Baylor lost this season. From there, it was 20 wins in a row.
Both players can hit short to mid-range shots along with their bread-and-butter ones on the low block. Neither dominates with size, really Blackmon is 6-foot-2 and Young 6-1 but both are good leapers (Young is as good at that as anyone in the women's college game, in fact) and have solid hands and moves.
Young is as successful as she is in spite of playing basketball for only six years. She's a very hard worker with a lot of drive to get even better. Next year she won't have Blackmon alongside her at Baylor, but she will have another summer of adding nuance to her game.
If Young ever got flustered this season, she never showed it. She displayed the kind of constant confidence you see from the best post players, the ones who are pretty much certain they will get their numbers every night, one way or another.
All season long, Blackmon and Young were typically credited as being "perhaps" the best post tandem in the nation this year. Fair to say after this Final Four, you can take off the qualifier.
How do they rank with post players of past national champions from, say, the last decade? Not to slight UConn's post game in 2003 and 2004, but this Baylor duo might be the best set of post starters on a title team since the 2002 Connecticut squad, which had the trio of Swin Cash, Tamika Williams and Asjha Jones. Those three and Kelly Schumacher were on the 2000 Huskies' championship team. UConn's first great championship post pair was Rebecca Lobo and Kara Wolters in 1995.
Almost anybody alongside Chamique Holdsclaw during Tennessee's threepeat run in 1996-98 was going to make a dynamic duo (or trio), and that included Tiffani Johnson, Pashen Thompson and Tamika Catchings.
Baylor's Young and Blackmon never received the regular-season national exposure any of those UConn or Tennessee players got. But in Big 12 territory, the power of the Baylor post game was well known.
And now, after this Final Four, everybody who follows the sport knows.
Mechelle Voepel of The Kansas City Star is a regular contributor to ESPN.com's women's basketball coverage. E-mail her at email@example.com.
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