A stingy, glamour-less first half defense paved the way for the No. 1 seed Lady Bears to overpower No. 16 seed Prairie View A&M 66-30 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament Sunday evening at the Ferrell Center.
“It was a game that we took care of business, I guess you’d say,” head coach Kim Mulkey said. “We didn’t really have to deviate from anything we do offensively. We were allowed to do a lot of things defensively tonight that we haven’t done all year, and I just thought it brought energy. It kept us moving. We pressed a lot today, and I thought that was good.”
A collective defensive effort on Baylor’s part led to PVU going 3 of 27 from the field in the first twenty minutes.
“People getting in passing lanes and hustling, we feed off of each other,” sophomore Brittney Griner said. “Before every game that’s what I always say is play our defense and our offense will come.”
Griner, usually to blame for altering and blocking the most opponent’s shots, took the back seat initially to Destiny Williams’ three first-half swats. Griner would finish the night with six of her team’s 14 total blocks.
Williams wasted no time getting started offensively either, connecting on her first jumper and following that up with two layups to give the Lady Bears a 6-0 lead.
William’s fellow post players took it from there as Griner and sophomore Brooklyn Pope extended the lead 16-0 in the first nine minutes.
The Panthers managed their first points at the 10:56 mark in the first half and finished the half with just eight points, the fewest first half points in Women’s NCAA Tournament history.
“We just guard people,” Mulkey said. “We’re pretty proud of the fact that we lead the NCAA in field goal percentage defense. That’s telling people across the country that when you score on Baylor, you’re going to score with people in your face.”
The Lady Bears did not look as sharp as Mulkey would have liked on either end coming out in the second half though.
The Lady Bears didn’t connect on a shot from the field until just under 13 minutes to play.
“I thought we were kind of sloppy in the second half with that first group, and the thought crossed my mind to take all five of them off the floor,” the eleventh-year coach said. “But I thought better, and I thought, ‘let them work through it.”
Meanwhile, the Panthers began to find their shooting touch.
PVU’s Siarra Soliz hit the Panthers’ first three-point shot of the evening in the opening minutes of the second half.
With just three free throws to show from the first six minutes of the second period, the trey prevented Baylor from lengthening its lead any until Destiny Williams’ sunk another free throw at 14:45, stretching the lead to 40-11.
Soliz kept her team from giving up ground though by hitting two more threes.
The freshman led her team with 12 points on the night.
Following the slow second-half start, Pope took it upon her self to extend her team’s lead.
The sophomore was responsible for nine during a 13-2 run that led to Mulkey sitting her starting five and ushering in five reserves to finish out the game.
“It’s time to get pumped up,” Pope said. “No matter what you did at the beginning of the season, no one will remember; you pretty much remember the end. It’s time to go get it.”
Baylor advances to the second round of NCAA Tournament play where it will face eighth-seeded West Virginia Tuesday night at 8:45 in the Ferrell Center.