By Matt Larsen
It was anything but pretty, but the No. 1 Lady Bears outlasted Texas Tech 64-51 Saturday night in a battle fought and won in the paint and on the boards.
“I’m most disappointed in the number of offensive boards we allowed Texas Tech to have,” head coach Kim Mulkey said. “That’s just pure grit.”
The Lady Raiders outrebounded the Lady Bears 36-32 overall, and 17-9 on the offensive side.
Tech began work down low early, pulling down six offensive rebounds before Brooklyn Pope hauled in her squad’s first offensive board with 11:53 left in the first half.
While her team held onto a lead the majority of the first half and virtually the entire second, Mulkey saw the youth in her team’s faces during a timeout.
“You would have thought that we were down,” she said, staring at daunted eyes. “Smile. Compete. This is what you get with that No. 1 on your chest.”
In addition to lacking their usual inside presence as they managed just three offensive boards in the first half, the Lady Bears missed a certain outside presence for most of the first half as well.
“Not having Odyssey [Sims] on the court, you try not to think about. You try to keep playing,” sophomore post Brittney Griner said. “But we all like her having that pressure out there on the ball.”
With two early fouls Sims went to the bench with over 15 minutes left in the first half.
While her team missed her on the defensive end, the scoreboard revealed that the Lady Bears also missed their second-leading scorer.
The team’s No. 1 scorer this season, Griner, went to the locker room with a typical 15 points.
Her team, however, still trailed 29-28.
It was the first time Baylor trailed at halftime since it played then No. 1 Connecticut Nov. 16.
With Sims back on the floor to start the second half, the Lady Bears used a 9-3 run to take the lead.
Griner, sophomore Destiny Williams and sophomore Brooklyn Pope regained ground under the basket on their way to seven, eight and six rebounds respectively.
Griner led her team with 25 points on the night and a crucial pair of finishes in the paint that allowed her team to tie and then take the lead for the final time early in the second half.
Tech kept it close though, using an 8 point run just before the five minute mark to pull within seven and make it 53-46.
Senior Melissa Jones ended that streak with a couple of free throws and a few minutes later sank a three that stretched the lead to 60-51 with just over a minute to go, putting the game out of reach.
“Just scoring period at that point was big,” Mulkey said.
Jones tallied 13 points to finish behind Griner as the Lady Bears second-leading scorer.
“Between those two,” Tech head coach Kristy Curry said following the game. “They always seem to make a play when Baylor needs it most.”