By Parmida Schahhosseini
The No. 1 Lady Bears put on a show on March 9-11, at the Big 12 Tournament as they became the only team in the Big 12 to win the championship for three consecutive years.
The Lady Bears displayed why they are the No. 1 team in the nation, whether it was by blowing a team out, making shots in the clutch or responding every time an opponent tried to come back into the game.
Three Baylor players were named to the Big 12 All-Tournament team: senior post Brittney Griner, senior forward Destiny Williams and junior guard Odyssey Sims. Griner was also named most outstanding player in the tournament.
Baylor defeated Kansas State in an 80-47 blowout in the quarterfinals. Baylor played Kansas State six days prior that match and it was a close game with Kansas State hitting 15 3-point jumpers to keep the game within reach. However, Baylor pulled away in the second half after making defensive adjustments.
The Lady Bears had that game in the back of their minds and it showed. Baylor jumped out to a 31-6 lead as it dominated both ends of the floor. Baylor put pressure on Kansas State by disrupting its offense and forcing it to hold on to the ball. Baylor’s defense disrupted Kansas State’s 3-point shooting by not allowing the Wildcats to setup any screens. Kansas State didn’t reach a double-digit score until the 5:37 mark as Baylor prevented the Wildcats from spreading the floor.
Kansas State did make halftime adjustments to get its offense going, such as taking higher percentage shots, but the gap was too much to overcome. Baylor continued to score because the Kansas State defense didn’t have any answers for the Lady Bears offense.
“I’m proud of how we competed in the second half,” Kansas State head coach Deb Patterson said. “I thought we continued to fight hard, just didn’t have enough play-making today to be able to get the job done.”
Kansas State guard Brittany Chambers was the only Kansas State player to score in double figures with 21, but there was a drop-off with the remaining players. Kansas State was held to 29.1 percent shooting.
“I thought we played with a lot of energy,” Williams said. “I thought we knocked down the shots that were given to us. I thought we played smart on offense and defense, looked for the open person.”
The semifinals were much more dramatic as Oklahoma State was looking to upset Baylor for a chance for the title. However, Baylor defeated Oklahoma State 77-69 after senior guard Jordan Madden hit a clutch 3-point shot after Oklahoma State cut Baylor’s lead to three.
“There are no moral victories,” head coach Kim Mulkey said. “You either won or you lost. We could have very easily lost today. Compliment Oklahoma State, but they still lost. Jim Littell is not going to come in here and be all excited. Those kids played hard for him today. They could have very easily won and we could have very easily lost.”
Baylor had a season-high 24 turnovers, including 18 in the second half. Oklahoma State not only managed a high number of steals, but it forced Baylor into some uncharacteristic passes.
Baylor played well during the first half as it continued to switch players around to confuse the Cowgirls leading to a shot clock violation. Griner followed with back-to-back blocks.
Baylor also went on two runs, responding each time Oklahoma State scored. However, during the second half, Oklahoma State let Baylor feel its presence. The Oklahoma State defense began to play in a two-three zone, giving Baylor trouble. The Cowgirls took Griner out of the game and the lack of ball movement by Baylor allowed Oklahoma State to cut into the lead. The Cowgirls took advantage of Baylor’s lack of defense and began clicking on offense. Three players finished in double figures because of this.
Oklahoma State outscored Baylor in fast break points and it also outscored Baylor in the second half, being the second team this season to do so. After Baylor committed four straight turnovers, Oklahoma State cut the lead to three, but Griner got a key steal that allowed Madden to make the clutch 3-point shot with less than two minutes remaining in the game.
The shot showed Baylor’s mental toughness as they pulled away with a win in the closing minutes of the game.
“I think it was good for us to a certain extent,” senior forward Brooklyn Pope said. “I don’t like close games. I like when we win by a large margin. I’m just happy we won. We’re going to work on some things. I just hope this helps us.”
After an uncharacteristic defensive performance, Baylor played with a chip on its shoulder, defeating No. 23 Iowa State 75-47 in the Big 12 Championship Game.
“Baylor played up to their No. 1 ranking,” Iowa State head coach Bill Fennelly said. “When Odyssey Sims and Brittney Griner go 21-26, I don’t think the Mavs could have won tonight.”
Baylor tightened up its defense, forcing Iowa State to commit 20 turnovers as Baylor crowded the passing lanes and protected the paint. Similar to the game against Kansas State, Baylor got off to an early lead. Baylor went on an 18-0 run, sparked by back-to-back field goals from Griner, after Iowa State scored the first three points of the game.
Iowa State was left without a field goal for about eight minutes, until it responded with a layup from Iowa State guard Nikki Moody. Moody hit a 3-point jumper shortly after, but Baylor answered with a 17-2 run in the final nine minutes of the half.
“Today we worked on moving the ball, penetrating, opening up the zone so BG could get more shots,” Sims said.
Iowa State made adjustments at the half as it began to attack the paint and take better shots.
This freed up the middle, allowing the Cyclones to score more points, but Baylor kept responding on offense and defense, making the gap too much for the Cyclones to overcome.