By Krista Pirtle
The Lady Bears walked onto the court Wednesday night wearing No. 5 T-shirts in warmups; they walked off with shirts that read, “Big 12 Champions.”
Even without senior Melissa Jones on the court, her presence in the Ferrell Center was all Baylor needed as it went on to soundly defeat Missouri, 84-52.
“Through the non-conference we did well, and we wanted to win a Big 12 championship, which we did,” head coach Kim Mulkey said. “I’m so happy we had that kind of scene on the floor with our fans.”
Senior night at the Ferrell Center was the end of a long day for Jones, one of Baylor’s two seniors. Jones, who wears No. 5, found out from her doctor this morning that she will regain vision in her right eye after losing it because of a head injury suffered against Oklahoma on Sunday.
Fellow senior Whitney Zachariason started in Jones’ place, and Jones did not play.
Once the final buzzer sounded, and the new gear was distributed to the team, the Lady Bears basked under the multicolored confetti that flew threw the air as they cut down the net and were handed the championship trophy.
Sophomore Brittney Griner and company couldn’t decide whether to show off their dance moves, or lay on the hardwood and play in the confetti.
Griner led the way for Baylor, recording 22 points that included her first career 3-pointer.
“Truthfully, she can shoot out there,” Mulkey said. “If we can’t get her the ball down low in some games down the road, I’m going to tell her to come out there.”
Four other Lady Bears finished with double digits – freshman Odyssey Sims and sophomore Kimetria Hayden with 13 and sophomore Jordan Madden with 11. Junior Brooklyn Pope recorded a double-double with 12 points and 11 boards.
For Missouri, RaeShara Brown led the way with 17 points followed by Shakara Jones with 10.
“We really wanted to win this for MJ,” Zachariason said. “I think we did a good job.”
Zachariason grabbed a career high 10 rebounds.
“I knew Whitney,” Mulkey said. “She’s always around the ball. She played very well tonight, and we’re going to need that.”
Jones proudly expressed the “roommate love” that she has for Zachariason.
Mulkey expanded on Jones’ comment and mentioned the similarity between the two senior roommates, specifically the unselfishness Jones and Zachariason display on the court.
“She did very much like her roommate; she turned down a lot of shots,” Mulkey said.
Taking nothing for granted, Mulkey recognized the accomplishment in a conference championship.
“Championships are hard to come by,” Mulkey said. “It’s particularly hard when you’re expected to win it. There’s a lot of people in our locker room that have never won a regular season Big 12 championship. [With A&M’s loss to Colorado] it’s fun to say we’re not sharing.”
At the end of a very blessed day for Jones, she was all smiles.
“Personally, what better way to end the regular season?” Jones said.