By Parmida Schahhosseini
The road to consecutive National Titles began Sunday at the Ferrell Center as the No. 1 Baylor Lady Bears defeated No. 16 Prairie View A&M 82-40 in front of a crowd of 9,540.
“You know our crowd. They’re great,” senior post Brittney Griner said. “Tonight they were outstanding. They cheer and we were able to feed off of that so it definitely helped us out a lot.”
Griner recorded her 61st career double-double, scoring 33 points while adding 10 rebounds. She also had three assists and six blocks. Junior guard Odyssey Sims also recorded a double-double with 12 points, 10 assists. The bench also added 20 points in the rout.
Griner recorded her 15th career dunk during a critical part of the game when the crowd got quiet following a layup from Prairie View’s Asha Hampton-Finch. Griner woke the crowd up with a one-handed dunk.
“They are all good,“ head coach Kim Mulkey said. “We’ve got to quit asking which dunk is the best dunk. People, how many times have you seen a game and watched a girl dunk? They’re all special. It was almost like a reverse.”
The dunk turned out to be a turning point as the crowd noise disrupted Prairie View, allowing senior forward Brooklyn Pope to steal the ball and lay it in. Pope followed with back-to-back layups as Baylor began to run away with the game.
The Lady Bears got off to a slow start as Baylor and Prairie View A&M exchanged points early in the first half, but Baylor tried to pull away by going on runs. However, the Panthers responded with runs of their own each to keep the game close.
Despite trying to be aggressive, the Panthers got into foul trouble early, committing 15 in the first half. Prairie View finished with 23 games. Baylor was only called for three fouls the whole game, which prevented Prairie View from getting to the free-throw line.
Baylor forced the Panthers to commit 14 turnovers as it blocked passing lanes and used its speed to double team the player holding the ball. Baylor also played aggressively without fouling, making them successful at being able to poke the ball out of the opponents’ hands.
The Lady Bears’ defense not only forced turnovers, but also kept the Panthers under 26 percent shooting. Baylor forced its opponent to hold on the ball and second-guess its decisions. The defensive pressure also prevented Prairie View A&M from getting good looks.
Sims turned up the pressure defensively in the second half, forcing back-to-back steals. After one of her steals, she made a spin move for a layup, getting the crowd in the game.
“It always starts with me on the defensive end and offensive end,” Sims said. “I guess I was just a little more anxious, concentrating on getting more steals and just defending. That’s something I love to do and I enjoy doing it.”
Baylor leads the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio because it knows how to share the basketball without turning the ball over. Early in the first half, Madden passed the ball across the court Sims who threw it across the other way for Griner who scored. This efficient ball movement sparked the runs Baylor went on, allowing the Lady Bears to come up with a win.
Baylor will play Florida State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Ferrell Center.