Wabara's defense helps shut down Augustus
INDIANAPOLIS -- Forget the hardware, all the player of the year awards, the fact LSU's Seimone Augustus was playing in her second Final Four.
To Abiola Wabara, Augustus -- Wade Trophy winner and unanimous All-American -- was just one of 10 players on the court Sunday.
"She's a good player, but she's a player, you know? " said Wabara, Baylor's 6-foot sophomore and defensive specialist. "We're all here for some reason. With due respect to her -- because she's a great player -- I didn't take it that big, you know?"
Truth is, Augustus wasn't that big in Sunday's semifinal. She matched her season average, scoring 22 points, but went just 3-for-11 in the first half and finished 10-for-26 from the field and 0-for-4 from 3-point range. But it wasn't enough as Baylor topped LSU 68-57 at the RCA Dome on Sunday.
Wabara, who contributed 12 points and five rebounds, said the key to defending Augustus was taking her out of her comfort zone.
"She hit a lot of jump shots tonight, but usually she drives to the basket," Wabara said. "She couldn't do that against me and I guess that was getting her frustrated. At times she forced a couple of shots. In the first 10 minutes, she didn't score but one bucket. If you're a player like Seimone, you expect to start off big."
Augustus had no excuses for her off night, saying that Wabara "kept her hand in my face all the time. Some of my shots just wouldn't fall."
With the score tied at 28 at halftime, it seemed as though Augustus had flipped a switch. She sank a jumper and drove the lane for a couple layups early in the second half to keep the Tigers close. Augustus, however, was unable to maintain any consistency after that.
"I thought Abby stepped up big-time for us tonight," said Sophia Young, who led the Lady Bears with 21 points and 10 rebounds. "In our last game, she didn't play that much against LSU. And tonight, I think she did a great job on Seimone."
Wabara, in fact, played just six minutes against LSU in November. On Sunday, the Lady Bears had to erase a 15-point first-half deficit to beat the Tigers. Last November, Baylor was 21 points down to LSU but lost that game 71-70. Augustus had a career night, pouring in 33 points.
"I was just ready to come out here and do my job," Wabara said. "I'm going to have to give (Augustus) props because the shots she made tonight were hard shots. A couple of the shots were in my face. She deserved the award she got. She's a good player, but I kept her below 30. The last time she just couldn't miss. She was having one of those nights.
"When we were behind tonight, we didn't really get worried because we had been there before," she said. "We got it together and decided we had to make some defensive stops to get back in the lead. We couldn't just score and let them score. We had to stay in the lead and that's how we won the game. We had a great night."
Baylor coach Kim Mulkey-Robertson couldn't have been more pleased with Wabara's efforts. She gave her young forward a tough assignment, but Wabara passed the test, and now the Lady Bears are on their way to their first NCAA final in school history.
"Watching Abby develop through the course of the year I was just very confident that Abby was the perfect person to guard Seimone Augustus," Mulkey-Robertson said. "She didn't stop her, but she guarded her as good as anybody could possibly guard her. Abby, she was just a very good player for us tonight.
"I said it in the Big 12 tournament and I said it in the regionals in Tempe -- Abiola Wabara is a solid player who nobody really gives enough credit to. But we sure give her enough credit. We know what she means to our team," she said.
Miki Turner is a regular contributor to ESPN.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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