WACO, Texas (AP)—The only complaint Baylor coach Kim Mulkey had was how the final few minutes of the game went when Brittney Griner and the rest of the starters sitting on the bench.
Kimetria Hayden scored 12 of her 18 points in the first 5 1/2 minutes and the third-ranked Lady Bears cruised to a 92-60 victory against turnover-prone Liberty on Friday night.
But the 50-point lead they had with 8 1/2 minutes left got significantly sliced when Mulkey played her reserves and several talented youngsters.
“There wasn’t any concern. There was more aggravation,” Mulkey said. “What you’re aggravated about is the people on the floor didn’t get it done. … The last 7 minutes of the game, they pressed us and we didn’t handle it very well. Yeah, there were freshmen on the floor for the most part, and what I call bench players that come in for our starters. We didn’t handle it.”
Hayden, a senior guard, scored the game’s first seven points, and the Lady Bears (5-1) led by 20 in less than 7 1/2 minutes on way to their 43rd consecutive win at home.
Liberty (2-3) had more turnovers than points at halftime, when the Lady Bears had a 53-18 lead. The Lady Flames’ 21 turnovers in the first half led to 27 of Baylor’s points.
The Lady Bears had five steals in the first half that led to breakaway layups, two of them by Hayden in the first 5 minutes.
Brooklyn Pope had 13 points for the Lady Bears, while two-time All-American center Brittney Griner had 11 points and four rebounds—giving her 999 in her career—while playing only 20 minutes. Jordan Madden had 10 points.
Preseason AP All-America point guard Odyssey Sims sat out her third consecutive game since sustaining a strained hamstring a week earlier in the Lady Bears’ 71-69 loss to Stanford, which replaced Baylor at No. 1 this week.
Devon Brown had 20 points to lead Liberty, which had a 15-point loss at Texas A&M on its Thanksgiving trip through the Lone Star State.
The Lady Flames had only six turnovers after halftime. Baylor led 81-31 on Pope’s free throw with 8:36 left before Liberty’s game-ending 29-11 spurt.
“Naturally, I thought the first half was dominated by Baylor. Second half, we competed,” Liberty coach Carey Green said. “We didn’t have anything to lose. My challenge for the team was to let the first half go and let’s see what we can do in the second half. Compete and execute your stuff.”
Stanford, which ended Baylor’s overall 42-game winning streak in Hawaii, has the nation’s longest active home winning streak at 80 games in a row.
Baylor has won its last three games by an average margin of 28 points. The Lady Bears are 99-1 in non-conference home games in coach Kim Mulkey’s 13 seasons, the only loss coming to No. 12 Purdue in the preseason WNIT championship game in November 2006.
After Hayden scored the first seven points, Brown had two quick baskets for Liberty. Brown hit a jumper, then had a steal and a layup only 13 seconds later. Griner scored on the next possession to start a 21-0 run, with six different Lady Bears scoring. That put them up 28-4 midway through the first half.
Nine Baylor players scored by halftime, including Pope’s nine points in 8 minutes.
“I think we did fine except for the last 7 minutes. We have to work on extending the lead when (Griner) isn’t out there and just continue to play defense,” Pope said. “You want to keep running the floor. You want to keep going as hard as you can. … We’re going to keep working the floor with whoever’s out there. Fifty points, 60 points, if Coach Mulkey says, `Go,’ we go as fast as we can.”
Liberty lost 81-42 at Waco in its only game against Baylor two years ago. Griner had 35 points and nine rebounds in that game.
“They’re defending a national championship. And it’s a lesson for us to learn,” Green said. “I’ve got to be pleased with the second-half performance, but obviously not the first half.”
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