Griner 41 for No. 1 Baylor, 77-53 win over Iowa StBy STEPHEN HAWKINS, AP Basketball Writer Saturday, Mar 3, 2012
WACO, Texas (AP)—Brittney Griner excitedly pounded her chest so hard with both fists that she pulled a teammate to the side and joked that she almost hurt herself.
Griner and top-ranked Baylor have plenty of reason to be excited about after completing its first undefeated regular season in school history.
That chest-pounding moment for Griner came during a game-clinching run after halftime for the Lady Bears, who got a career-high 41 points from their 6-foot-8 junior phenom and took control with some tenacious defense in a 77-53 win over Iowa State on Saturday.
“I don’t know, I guess I was just feeling it,” Griner said of the reaction after her putback basket when Baylor started pulling away.
The Lady Bears (31-0, 18-0), who have won their games by an average margin of nearly 28 points, also stretched their home-court winning streak to 40 in a row.
But Iowa State didn’t make it easy for them.
The Cyclones (18-11, 9-9) made seven 3-pointers before halftime, including Chelsea Poppens’ shot in the final minute that tied the game at 32. Iowa State still led 40-38 after Griner made a short jumper and Baylor coach Kim Mulkey called timeout with 17:24 left.
Baylor then went with a full-court pressure defense, something her assistant coaches had been bugging her to do. It worked with the Lady Bears forcing three turnovers in less than a minute.
“Being hard-headed or stubborn or whatever you want to call me, I didn’t do it,” Mulkey said. “Then I didn’t do it to start the second half, and I had them in my ear wanting me to change the pace of the game, and it was a great decision.
“Because we were playing at Iowa State’s pace and they were getting 3s all over the floor and penetrating and we were getting suckered in and helping and they were kicking out for 3s.”
With the pressure, Jordan Madden almost immediately had a steal. After Griner missed a potential tying free throw on that possession, Kimetria Hayden got a rebound and missed a 3-pointer before Griner missed a putback. But Destiny Williams grabbed the ball under the basket and made a quick step for a reverse layup and a 41-40 lead with 16:38 left, and the Lady Bears soon put the game away with a 26-4 run.
After Williams had a steal, Odyssey Sims was fouled on a breakaway drive and made both free throws.
“When they started pressing, we panicked a little bit,” coach Bill Fennelly said.
The Cyclones were only 3-of-15 on 3-pointers after halftime.
“It’s a mix of emotion and things started to go bad,” said Anna Prins, who led Iowa State with 17 points. “It just kind of spiraled down.”
Griner’s previous career high was 40 points, against Green Bay in last year’s NCAA tournament. She made 15 of 18 field goals and 11 of 13 free throws against Iowa State, plus had eight rebounds. The 15 field goals matched her career high.
Williams had 15 points and 11 rebounds. Despite going 1 of 9 from the field, Sims had nine points with five steals.
Prins had four 3-pointers and was one of six Iowa State players to make a shot from beyond the arc. Nikki Moody had 12 points with two 3s.
While going through the regular season undefeated is quite an accomplishment, the Lady Bears still are not close to their ultimate goal of winning another national championship. Their only national title came in 2005, and they lost in a regional final last year to eventual champ Texas A&M.
“Never do you ever think you’re going to go undefeated. … But if you reflect on it today, these guys that I get to coach, Wow!,” Mulkey said. “We’re very appreciative of it. But it’s on the back burner now. It’s kind of like, we won that regular-season championship, we’re going to try to go win three games at the conference tournament, but we still have our focus on those last six. Those last six.”
With three wins in the Big 12 tournament next week, and then the six that would be needed in the NCAA tournament for a title, Baylor could reach 40 wins.
Iowa State, which had gone 7-2 in February, tied the game at 43-all on a 3-pointer by Chassidy Cole with 15:21 left. But they didn’t make another field goal for more than 13 minutes.
Williams responded with a long jumper that broke the last tie, and started the run over a span of just less than 10 minutes.
After another steal by Madden, Sims made a bounce pass to Williams, who missed the layup. But Griner grabbed the rebound in traffic and put it back in while getting fouled. She stomped backward pounding her chest as the crowd erupted and the ball dropped through the basket. The Lady Bears led 50-43 even though she missed the free throw.
“The press picked up our intensity a lot,” Williams said. “We had fast breaks, transitions, people got to the foul line. It helped us out as far as getting stops and creating offensive, more baskets. It picked up our energy.”