ESPN.com experts: Zone, Niemann lift Baylor

Updated: April 3, 2005, 9:57 PM ET
ESPN.com

INDIANAPOLIS -- Baylor's making its first trip to the NCAA title game, but what keyed the Lady Bears' victory over LSU, the NCAA Tournament's No. 1 overall seed? ESPN.com's experts break down the game and define the X-factors in Baylor's 68-57 victory Sunday:

Ann MeyersESPN's Ann Meyers
The key for Baylor was its 3-2 zone and the play of sophomore reserve Emily Niemann, who finished 5-for-7 from the field for 14 points, five more than her 9.0 scoring average heading into the Final Four. Niemann made all the difference. She hit some big shots for Baylor, which changed the whole complexion of the game.

I was surprised LSU, which was held 15 points below its scoring average (72.3), didn't put more pressure on the perimeter. I think the Lady Tigers' thinking was to sag off on Chelsea Whitaker because she's not a shooter or scorer. But because they wanted to stop Baylor's inside game so much, they never made an adjustment in the second half to pressure the perimeter. I was also surprised that LSU didn't go into the gaps more, not only off of dribble penetration and the kick-out but also with cutters getting into the gaps and getting passes.

Despite 22 points, Seimone Augustus, the consensus national player of the year, played a mediocre game. She shot just 10-for-26 and was 0-for-4 from 3-point range. Unfortunately, she missed her first four shots, and as a player that takes you out of your rhythm. She never seemed comfortable within her shot. She tried to get some rebounds, but LSU didn't run like it wants to. The Lady Tigers couldn't rebound the way they like because of Baylor's defense.

Wendlyn Jones getting into foul trouble also really hurt LSU's rhythm of setting picks, not just in the man-to-man Baylor was running but even within the zone. Jones is such a good player on the defensive end but also in making things happen and getting her teammates open.

LSU freshman Sylvia Fowles had a terrific game, going 4-for-7 from the field and 5-of-6 at the foul line for 13 points and tallying 12 rebounds and four blocks.

Mechelle VoepelESPN.com's Mechelle Voepel
What won the game for Baylor was the adjustments that Baylor coach Kim Mulkey-Robertson was able to make thanks to the versatility and depth of her bench.

The key to this game was the play of Emily Niemann and Abiola Wabara, and the fact that Sophia Young took what LSU gave her instead of trying to force her offense inside. Wabara is known as a defensive stopper, but against LSU her offensive aggressiveness was critical in the second half. And Niemann, a sophomore reserve, held her own on defense plus gave Baylor a jump start at the end of the first half that carried over into the second.

Seimone Augustus and Sylvia Fowles, at times, were the only viable offensive threats for LSU, whereas Baylor got more on the offensive end from different people.

Beth MowinsESPN's Beth Mowins
I thought LSU's experience would carry the Lady Tigers. Instead, they panicked a little bit late in the game. Baylor coach Kim Mulkey-Robertson did a great job going to the 3-2 zone to get the Lady Bears back in the game and then went back to the man-to-man with 1½ minutes to go so that LSU couldn't get any 3-pointers off. I was really impressed with Emily Niemann and Abiola Wabara, who were able to take LSU off the dribble and score in the lane.