Baylor's posts, athleticism too much for MSU

Updated: April 6, 2005, 11:05 AM ET
ESPN.com

INDIANAPOLIS -- They won one for Waco. And now, the Big 12 -- as well as the Baylor Lady Bears and coach Kim Mulkey-Robertson -- have their first NCAA title. ESPN.com's experts break down Tuesday's final and define the X-factors in Baylor's 84-62 victory over Michigan State:

Beth MowinsESPN's Beth Mowins
The rebounding -- Baylor finished with 45 compared with Michigan State's 22 -- was definitely the most impressive statistic. But Sophia Young and Steffanie Blackmon were just able to do whatever they wanted inside offensively.

Michigan State seemed tired in the second half. The Lady Bears were able to play at their pace and the Spartans just couldn't do anything to slow them down inside.

The athleticism of Young and Blackmon really bothered Michigan State's posts. Their quickness and ability to elevate and rebound over the Spartans, and score over the top of them, also was key. I don't know if anybody in college basketball does that as well as Young.

And of course, Emily Niemann's 3-point shooting (started 5-for-7 from 3-point range and finished 6-for-10 from field, 5-for-8 from downtown) stretched the floor and didn't allow Michigan State to get any guards down to help out defensively on Baylor's posts.

Mechelle VoepelESPN.com's Mechelle Voepel
I thought second-chance points would be a big factor and they were. Baylor had 17; Michigan State had none.

Baylor's inside game and perimeter game were both outstanding. But once again, Baylor's high-quality depth proved a big factor, as it has throughout this season.

It's a big night for the Big 12 conference, which gets its first basketball title, men's or women's, since the league formed in 1996-97. It's also a big night for a Baylor team that defeated three No. 1 seeds and left no doubt it was the best in women's basketball this season.

Stacey Dales-SchumanESPN's Stacey Dales-Schuman
There were three keys. Baylor dominated the boards. The Lady Bears also stretched the defense on Emily Niemann's 3-pointers, which differentiated the game. Her shots stretched the defense, which enabled Sophia Young and Steffanie Blackmon to work. It almost made it too easy for them.

The other key for Baylor was executing its X-cuts, which against a zone is almost like executing high-lows. There were three different plays where Blackmon made an X-cut against Michigan State's fullcourt zone. Young drew the double team and dished to Blackmon, and she got a layup every time.

Ann MeyersESPN's Ann Meyers
Emily Niemann opened things up. Niemann hitting those outside shots made it a lot easier for Baylor to get the ball into its posts and to get some dribble-drives. Latoya Wyatt also did a great job coming in, and Baylor's bench was productive.

Steffanie Blackmon and Sophia Young -- who combined for 48 points and 16 rebounds -- hit their shots, from the baseline or from 5 to 15 feet, anywhere in that range. They also neutralized Michigan State's posts, Kelli Roehrig and Liz Shimek. Shimek was averaging a double-double, but she finished with seven points and didn't hit her first basket after the break until late in the second half. Baylor just shut down the Spartans' bigs.

Michigan State has made a habit of digging out of holes, but Baylor's defense wouldn't budge. The Lady Bears made it difficult for Michigan State to get off any shots. The Spartans' perimeter players struggled. And even though Lindsay Bowen and Kristin Haynie were able to get inside, they faced tough shots.

Baylor's defense just seemed to neutralize the Spartans. What also hurt was that Rene Haynes and Victoria Lucas-Perry did not contribute.