Jan. 26, 2012
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) - Brittney Griner's defensive presence allowed top-ranked Baylor to run away with a 20th straight victory.
As a reward, coach Kim Mulkey gave her the chance to show off a rarely used part of her offensive game.
Griner had 18 points, seven blocks and hit her first 3-pointer of the season as the Bears pulled away in the second half and beat Oklahoma 89-58 on Thursday night.
The Bears (20-0, 7-0 Big 12) barely escaped with a one-point win in Norman last season on their way to the regular-season conference title but this time left nothing in question.
Mulkey called timeout with 3:14 remaining after a 12-0 run pushed the lead to 32, then sent her front-liners back onto the court with something special planned. Griner connected on her first 3 on Baylor's next possession, and that got the reserves off the Bears' bench.
"She can shoot the 3. The unfortunate thing is she's playing for a coach that won't let her shoot it much. But Brittney is an outstanding 3-point shooter," Mulkey said.
"I guess she got tired of being banged in there and asked me could she shoot a 3, and I said, `Come off the stagger and go shoot it."'
Odyssey Sims and Terran Condrey scored 14 points apiece, Destiny Williams added 13 points and Kimetria Hayden and Brooklyn Pope each had 10 as Baylor put six players in double figures.
The Sooners (12-6, 4-3) frequently had a post player behind Griner and Aaryn Ellenberg sagging in front of her on the offensive end to keep her from getting the ball.
"They, I guess, challenged us to have to have that kind of scoring. I thought that they left players open because they were so concerned on defending Griner," Mulkey said. "That's what Division I basketball players do."
Whitney Hand led Oklahoma with 19 points and seven rebounds. Ellenberg scored 11 points on 5-for-17 shooting and Morgan Hook had a season-high five steals for Oklahoma, which fell to 0-13 all-time against teams ranked No. 1. The Sooners had won two straight games against ranked opponents this season.
After seemingly avoiding the nation's top shot blocker at all costs in the first half, the Sooners aggressively attacked Griner coming out of the tunnel to temporarily cut into the lead.
Nicole Griffin went after Griner inside and converted a three-point play, and Hook's steal at the end of a 10-0 run led to a fast-break layup that brought Oklahoma back within 46-40 with 17:17 to play. The Sooners weren't within striking distance for long, though.
Condrey silenced the crowd with a 3-pointer from the left wing, sending the Bears on a 19-3 surge that put them firmly in control again.
"When (Condrey) hit that 3, it definitely gave us a boost. That was the spark that we needed to get us going," Griner said. "After that, I just feel like everybody was ready to move the ball around and we got the looks that we needed to get to get that lead."
Griner followed Condrey's 3 by swatting away Hand's jumper from the right wing, eliciting a smile from Hand, who must have seen it coming. Griner blocked two more shots under the basket by Hook during the big run, and it hardly mattered that she picked up her third foul of the half in the same span.
She had six blocks in the second half and is now two shy of tying Michigan State's Alyssa DeHaan for second all-time in NCAA women's basketball.
"She's 6-8, she can alter shots," Mulkey said. "When you think you've got a good look at the basket, she can fly out of there from the help side and block it into the stands.
"I've said this numerous times. Brittney makes all of us change the game. She makes me coach differently, she makes the officials officiate differently and she makes opposing teams change their game plan.
Sims connected on 3-pointer from the left wing to give the Bears a 65-43 advantage with 10:18 remaining, and the game was out of reach. The last run pushed the lead to 83-51 after Pope's layup with 3:15 remaining and helped make the margin of victory the largest for Baylor in the 38-game series.
"I just felt like we got fatigued and quit moving and then kind of let one play lead into another, lead into another and suddenly there's a snowball that you can't stop," Sooners coach Sherri Coale said.
After falling behind by six right off the bat, Oklahoma rallied back to take a brief lead at 16-15 when Ellenberg's jumper along the right baseline finished the Sooners' own run of six points in a row.
Hayden responded with a three-point play, and Pope followed with one of her own on the next possession to start a 10-2 run that put Baylor ahead to stay. Sims' runner gave the Bears their first double-digit lead at 30-20 with 6:51 to go before halftime.
Griner added to the lead by dodging three defenders for a basket inside that led to a three-point play, and Sims followed with a jumper for a 17-point lead. Hand's two free throws to close the first half brought the Sooners within 43-28.
"We can't get punched and then just back away. We've got to just keep fighting until the end," Hook said. "Today, we got punched and we started coming back and then we got punched again and we just kind of stayed down."