By Parmida Schahhosseini
The No. 1 Baylor Lady Bears defeated Oklahoma 86-64 Monday, extending the nation’s largest winning streak to 25 games. Baylor finished the game with six players in double digits as it found its rhythm in the second half and began widening the gap.
Senior center Brittney Griner’s impact on the team was cemented in this game as Baylor struggled when Griner was on the bench due to foul trouble. She recorded another double-double with 15 points, 15 rebounds, seven blocks and five assists. Griner also moved up to the fourth highest scorer in NCAA history with 3,045 career points.
“It’s crazy. I haven’t really been keeping up with it,” Griner said. “Every game somebody will tell me, ‘Hey, you just moved up.’ Everybody is trying to calculate how can I be the number one and I’m like, ‘y’all stop. I’m just playing.’”
Baylor started the game with a turnover but had its way in the early minutes as it scored the first six points.
Beginning with their transition offense, senior forward Brooklyn Pope’s jumper scored the first points of the game.
Griner followed by being physical early on as she made her way inside the paint to score and draw the foul. After back-to-back turnovers, junior guard Odyssey Sims led a 6-0 run.
However, Griner and Pope got into foul trouble early, forcing head coach Kim Mulkey to bench them.
Despite a 22-6 deficit for the Sooners, they began taking advantage of Griner’s absence. The Sooners went on a 9-0 run and kept Baylor without a field goal for nearly six minutes. Without Griner on the defensive end, Oklahoma was more aggressive and took more chances, forcing their way into the paint. Senior forward Destiny Williams ended the scoring drought with a field goal.
The Sooners went on a 14-3 run as they attacked the paint. Baylor couldn’t get anything going offensively and had bad shots. Oklahoma came back to put the score within four, but freshman guard Alexis Prince caused some damage off the bench with her 10 first-half points.
With Griner on the bench, Oklahoma got a boost of confidence and it allowed its offense to attack and play physical inside the paint. Oklahoma began driving the ball inside, taking shots it wouldn’t normally take with Griner crowding the paint. Her absence caused a void on both sides of the floor because it put more pressure on the other players. Without Griner in the game, it evened up the playing field, allowing Oklahoma to run its offense.
Griner’s value on the team was on full display in the second half as Baylor began the half with eight quick points. Baylor went on to outscore Oklahoma 16-4 as it made its run using athleticism to tire out the opponent. However, Oklahoma responded with a 9-0 run beginning with a layup.
Sims made her presence known, recording four steals and being physical. Sims’ speed in the second half was a factor as she began pushing the ball inside, giving Baylor more looks offensively. Mulkey’s message of staying focused was made clear.
“I can say honestly that I’m trying everything possible,” Mulkey said. “I’m talking to them about it, I’m presenting things, situations that have happened throughout my career as a player and as a coach, because I feel like if you address it ahead of time and someone should beat you, then at least you presented it to the team.”
Baylor began to create separation when it got its fast break offense going. Griner made a crisp pass to senior guard Jordan Madden.
When the offense got going, Oklahoma tried to respond, but with Griner in the game, the Sooners weren’t able to generate enough to make a difference in the game. On the topic of staying focused, Mulkey had strong words.
“When you’re a competitor you want to win every basketball game,” Mulkey said. “I do understand that if you’re in a race and there’s two or three of you fighting to win the championship, that in itself brings out the best in you. When you’re wrapped up in a championship, sometimes you become bored and complacent. It’s only natural to not maybe be as intense, but you can be focused, you can play as well and if you’re a true competitor you dig deep within and you find a way to win a basketball game.”