No. 2 Baylor breezes to win over Montana State
WACO, Texas (AP)—Kim Mulkey decided she needed to make a statement after second-ranked Baylor committed two turnovers and allowed two inside baskets in the opening minute against Montana State.
She did it without saying a word and got the desired result.
Mulkey benched her starting five just 71 seconds into Saturday’s game, then watched them take over when they returned five minutes later, fueling a 93-56 win over the Bobcats.
Melissa Jones had 17 points and 11 rebounds to lead six players in double figures for the Lady Bears, who warmed up for a Tuesday trip to No. 1 Connecticut by winning the second of three games in three days.
Preseason All-American Brittney Griner added 15 points and seven rebounds for Baylor (2-0), while Brooklyn Pope had 14 points and eight boards. The Lady Bears also got 12 points from Kimetria Hayden, plus 11 from Ashley Field and 10 from Jordan Madden off the bench.
Katie Bussey and Sarah Balian led Montana State (0-2) with 12 points each, and Rachel Semansky had 11 points and eight rebounds.
Mulkey had warned her players right before tipoff that they’d have to create their own energy and enthusiasm for the noon tipoff before a sparse crowd.
“I said, ‘The band’s not here, you don’t have much of an atmosphere, go create your own atmosphere. Play with some enthusiasm, take care of the ball,’ ” Mulkey said. “And I didn’t think we got that in the first couple of possessions. I thought, ‘I didn’t get my message across. Maybe this will.’ “
Baylor’s second unit produced a 10-4 run over the next 3 1/2 minutes to give the Lady Bears their first lead, and the starters reeled off a 20-11 string to take control 30-21 with 8:38 left in the half. Hayden, who took over at point guard after Kelli Griffin quit the team last week, sparked the rally with seven points, including a long 3-pointer from the left wing and a strong finish on a baseline drive.
The 6-foot-8 Griner came on strong in the second half after a slow start. She shot 1 of 7 in the opening period against a Montana State front line that lost its only player over 6-1 when 6-4 post Chelsea Banis went to the bench with three fouls in only five minutes. Semansky scored twice over her in the opening minute, and the Bobcats ran lots of sets designed to draw her away from the basket.
“Brittney struggled, but if she can struggle, and we can score 93, imagine what we can do when she’s really playing well,” Mulkey said. “When you’re 6-foot-8 and you’ve got people underneath you all the time, sometimes that gets in your head. But Brittney Griner at her worst makes us a better team, because she makes everybody around her better.”
The sophomore finished 3 of 10 from the field, but was 9 of 10 from the free-throw line. She also had five blocks after getting shut out in Friday’s opening win over Florida International. She led the nation in blocks last season.
The Bobcats trailed 46-32 at the break despite shooting 33 percent. But the Lady Bears pulled away by outrebounding them 31-12 in the second half and 59-28 overall, including 22-11 on the offensive glass.
“In the second half, they really got out in transition and we just couldn’t keep up,” Montana State coach Tricia Binford said. “We just couldn’t keep them off the glass. That was really the biggest factor, even in the first half.”
The Lady Bears got 20 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists from new starter Hayden and freshman backup Odyssey Sims. More important, from Mulkey’s perspective, was that they had only one turnover each in 37 minutes.
“That’s what you worry about when you go Tuesday to UConn,” Mulkey said. “Can those kids go to a big arena like that and take care of the ball and not be overwhelmed with everything and make sure that they’re running the show?
“That’s what you worry about, because they’re going to give you everything they have. It’s just being in that setting and the experience. They’re going to get a shot to see if they can handle it.”
They’ll get more practice against Rice on Sunday.