by Mike Potter
Joanne P. McCallie says her mind isn’t going to be on anything that happened five years ago.
But the Duke women’s basketball coach has led a team against Baylor just once before.
That was in the 2005 NCAA title game, when Kim Mulkey’s Bears laid an 84-62 win on McCallie’s Michigan State Spartans.
No. 6 Duke will take on No. 14 Baylor tonight at 7 in Memphis for a spot in this season’s Final Four, with the more experienced Blue Devils perhaps slight favorites against a team featuring a weapon of a center in 6-8 freshman Brittney Griner.
“Kim does a great job and runs an excellent program,” McCallie said during the official press conference on Sunday. “What I remember about that year is we were both up and coming programs, Baylor and Michigan State, and it was really great to see the parity in women's basketball at that time and see some change up in the game. I also learned you can't come back from 16 down to a Tennessee and have all your horses going. From her perspective, she is a terrific coach, mom and a very good coach.”
Mulkey also had strong memories of the game.
“I just remember (McCallie’s) zone stuff,” Mulkey said. “She played a lot of zone with Michigan State. Of course, with different personnel you do different things, and she's extended her zones. She's pressing with the athletes that she has. I don't remember much full court when she was at Michigan State. I know that she has a history of having been at Auburn with Joe Ciampi, and what a great zone teacher he is. That's kind of what I remember.”
Duke has gotten to its 30-win plateau on the strength of its defense, and the Blue Devils have a big challenge tonight against Griner, who dunks the ball with ease and averages a ridiculous 6.3 blocks per game.
“Team defense is what we have in mind,” McCallie said about dealing with Griner and her teammates. “There are some very good players on their team that you cannot let get active offensively. I think the unsung hero of their team is Morghan Medlock. The answer is it is a team defensive approach. There is no way you can put too much emphasis on one player. They have terrific balance and a good point guard. Without Medlock, they’re completely different team.
“Obviously we’re concerned about Griner and she’s terrific, but I don't think we will stop her. She will get her points and what not and be productive based on the things she works on, but if we can have a great defensive effort with disruption across the board would be what we want to project and have. Perhaps we’re different than some, but we can't over emphasize one because there are too many good players on their team.”
Duke’s 6-4 center Krystal Thomas will need to deal well with Griner to keep her from taking over the paint.
“Obviously, she poses a different kind of challenge because of her height,” Thomas said. “With the schedule that we've played, I've played some of the best posts in the country. It’s just another opponent, another game, another day.”
Duke’s senior forward Joy Cheek said facing Griner won’t be anything all that new.
“Like Krystal said, a tall post (is the biggest challenge),” Cheek said. “She’s 6-8. She has the ability to alter shots. She is a great shot blocker. She has over 200 in her freshman year. Her ability to block shots will be the biggest challenge.
“Like Krystal said, we've played against Jayne Appel (of Stanford) who can block shots, Tina Charles (of Connecticut) can blocks shots. North Carolina's posts, all of them can block shots. We've been there, and we have succeeded against some good posts. We just have to be able to do that tomorrow.”
No. 6 Duke vs. No. 14 Baylor
[Monday, 7 p.m., FedEx Forum, Memphis]
Records: Duke 30-5; Baylor 26-9.
Audio: WDNC-AM 620, GoDuke.com.
Coaches’ records - Duke: Joanne P. McCallie 398-169, 80-21 at Duke; Baylor: Kim Mulkey 263-75.
Leading scorers - Duke: Jasmine Thomas 16.0; Baylor: Brittney Griner 28.7.
Leading rebounders - Duke: Krystal Thomas 6.6; Baylor: Brittney Griner 7.5.
Assist leaders - Duke: Jasmine Thomas 4.1; Baylor: Kelli Griffin 5.2.