By Chris Derrett
Before the Baylor women’s Big 12 tournament matchup with Kansas on Wednesday, the video board at Kansas City’s Municipal Auditorium displayed the Lady Bears who won conference honors.
Freshman Brittney Griner earned Player of the Year, sophomore Destiny Williams was Newcomer of the Year, Odyssey Sims took Freshman of the Year, and Kim Mulkey was Coach of the Year.
The scoreboard eventually proved why Baylor swept the awards.
The Lady Bears had no problem beating Kansas for the second time this season, physically dominating the Jayhawks in an 86-51 rout. Destiny Williams scored 21 points to lead Mulkey’s team, who advanced to the Big 12 tournament semifinals with the win.
“I saw an intense basketball team that took that floor for Baylor,” Mulkey said. “If they can do that a couple more days in the tournament, I feel good about our chances of winning it.”
Griner scored 19, and Sims nine.
After a layup gave Kansas its only lead of the game at 7-5, Baylor mounted an 18-2 run that forced a Jayhawks timeout at the 10 minute mark.
Wednesday’s game looked much like the teams’ Jan. 19 contest, in which Baylor led 40-14 at halftime before cruising to a 76-37 win, its largest margin of victory against any conference opponent.
The only thing different was a pair of sunglasses.
Senior Melissa Jones sported the shades as part of her continued recovery from a head injury suffered in Baylor’s Feb. 27 win at Oklahoma. She temporarily lost vision in her right eye and has not fully regained it. The glasses, she said, are for protection of her left eye.
Averaging 5.8 field goal attempts per game, Jones sat out one game and tried just one field goal in the Lady Bears’ regular season finale at Colorado. In 25 minutes on Wednesday, Jones was 2 of 2 from the field, both 3-pointers, and added a pair of free throws for eight points. She also tallied nine rebounds, seven assists and four steals.
“I can see that there’s like light. I don’t know. It’s still dark, but I can tell that there’s light, if that makes sense,” Jones said.
Even Jones’ coach, with decades of basketball experience, could hardly believe Jones’ performance under the circumstances.
“If you didn’t know it and you were watching her play, you wouldn’t know it,” Mulkey said. “I just couldn’t — I still can’t imagine that kid playing as well as she did today.”
By halftime the Lady Bears held a 43-19 lead, blowing past Kansas in most categories. In the first 20 minutes Baylor outrebounded its foe 28-10, snatched 13 offensive boards and rejected seven shots, five from Griner.
“Coach always tells us never take a possession off, and today I don’t think we did,” Griner said. “Our intensity in the first half was amazing. It wasn’t in spurts; it was all the way through.”
Monica Engelman led Kansas’ offensive charge with 16 points.