Feb. 11, 2012
WACO, Texas (AP) - Brittney Griner, Odyssey Sims and top-ranked Baylor waited a long time for the opportunity to avenge their last loss.
When that chance finally arrived, the Lady Bears unleashed their pent-up frustration in a hurry. They had a quick opening frenzy against defending national champion Texas A&M (No. 14 ESPN/USA Today, No. 15 AP) and went on to a 71-48 victory Saturday night in their first meeting since last year's NCAA tournament.
"We just stayed motivated, never forgot what happened," Sims said. "We came out here and played as hard as we could."
Sims had two early 3-pointers from the left corner in front of A&M's bench, the second capping a 14-0 run that pushed the Lady Bears (25-0, 12-0 Big 12) to a 17-2 lead less than 6 minutes into the game.
Baylor led throughout, getting started with Griner making an inside basket while being fouled and then adding the free throw only a half-minute into the game.
Tyra White then scored on the Aggies' first shot. But Kimetria Hayden's layup ignited the spurt of 14 consecutive points over 4 minutes that pretty much put Baylor in control for good.
"Just looking at the film from the game when they beat us, that was motivation in itself," Griner said. "We just came out focused, knowing what happened and knowing how we beat ourselves in that game. We fed off that. We came out strong."
Texas A&M (17-6, 8-4) had lost eight in a row against Baylor, including three last season before that NCAA regional final victory last March. That sent the Aggies to their first Final Four on way to winning the national championship.
For the long-awaited rematch, which Lady Bears coach Kim Mulkey has repeatedly said will be SEC-bound Texas A&M's last visit to Waco, there was a record-tying sellout crowd of 10,627.
Country music star Trace Adkins, who had an admitted college crush on Mulkey at Louisiana Tech 30 years ago, sang the national anthem and Baylor wore new Nike platinum uniforms.
"Things could have focused in the wrong direction," Mulkey said. "And that's, probably other than the win, what I'm most proud of. That our team was able to compartmentalize all of it."
Griner, the 6-foot-8 junior phenom, had 21 points, 10 rebounds and blocked six shots. Sims had 19 points while Brooklyn Pope had 10 points and nine rebounds.
White had 18 points to lead Texas A&M, which had won four in a row and seven of eight before shooting 28 percent (18 of 64). Sydney Carter had 13 points on 4-of-16 shooting.
"You saw why they are the No. 1 team in the country," A&M coach Gary Blair said. "It's not what they do offensively. It's what they do defensively. They made it tough on our wings to even get open."
The Lady Bears extended their school-record home winning streak to 37 games, and is the only remaining undefeated team in major college basketball. Texas A&M last won there in 2007.
With six games left in the round-robin Big 12 schedule, including a Feb. 27 game at College Station, the Lady Bears have a four-game lead in the conference standings over second-place A&M.
Mulkey was already pumping her right fist when Griner scored that opening basket.
After Hayden's layup, Sims had a layup before her two 3s. Baylor led 17-2 despite Blair already using two timeouts to try to slow things down.
"We were intimidated and shell-shocked and short-armed so many shots," Blair said.
Karla Gilbert, A&M's 6-foot-5 center, could only turn her head in frustration toward the Aggies' bench after Griner drove and had a layup against her about 5 minutes into the game. Then Griner blocked her on consecutive shots taken in rapid-fire motion.
Texas A&M missed 10 shots in a row before White finally had a putback of her own miss. That was the Aggies' first score in more than 6 minutes since she scored in the game's opening minute.
The Aggies are the only Big 12 team to hold any opponent under 40 points in a game this season, including a 67-36 victory over Kansas State on Wednesday. They trailed Baylor 40-21 at halftime.
After not scoring consecutive baskets in the first half, Texas A&M scored the first six points after halftime.
White had a jumper that gave Blair something to clap about, before Kelsey Bone blocked a layup attempt by Griner that led to a jumper by Adaora Elonu. Then Elonu had a steal she converted into a layup to cut the gap to 40-27.
Texas A&M never got closer, and Baylor finally scored again when Hayden penetrated for a short baseline jumper to start a 15-5 run.
"It feels great," Sims said. "We're really motivated to just take them one at a time. Not take it easy, it's anybody's game, but just preparing each day we step on the floor to get it done in practice."