By Jeff Latzke
NORMAN, Okla. — Whitney Hand and her Oklahoma teammates tried to find ways to avoid Brittney Griner. They also tried to go right at Baylor’s towering superstar.
Neither way gave the Sooners much of a chance.
Griner had 18 points and seven blocks, Odyssey Sims and Terran Condrey scored 14 apiece and top-ranked Baylor ran away in the second half and beat Oklahoma 89-58 on Thursday night. After seemingly avoiding the nation’s top shot blocker at all costs in the first half, the Sooners (12-6, 4-3 Big 12) aggressively attacked the 6-foot-8 Griner coming out of the tunnel to temporarily cut into the lead.
Nicole Griffin went after Griner inside and converted a three-point play, and Morgan Hook’s steal at the end of a 10-0 run led to a fast-break layup that brought Oklahoma back within 46-40 with 17:17 to play. The Sooners weren’t within striking distance for long, though.
Condrey silenced the crowd with a 3-pointer from the left wing, sending the Bears (20-0, 7-0) on a 19-3 surge that put them firmly in control again.
“We just got worn down. We don’t have anywhere to go,” Sooners coach Sherri Coale said. “Guys are playing multiple, multiple minutes and it’s a real challenge obviously to try to defend them. And then that carries over and there’s just a snowball.
“I just felt like we got fatigued and quit moving and then kind of let one play lead into another, lead into another and suddenly there’s a snowball that you can’t stop.”
Griner followed Condrey’s 3 by swatting away Hand’s jumper from the right wing, eliciting a smile from Hand, who must have seen it coming. Griner blocked two more shots under the basket by Hook during the big run, capped by Sims’ 3-pointer from the left wing that gave the Bears a 65-43 advantage with 10:18 remaining.
A late 12-0 run pushed the lead to 83-51 after Pope’s layup with 3:15 remaining and helped make the margin of victory the largest for Baylor in the 38-game series.
“We can’t get punched and then just back away. We’ve got to just keep fighting until the end,” said Hook, who had a season-high five steals. “Today, we got punched and we started coming back and then we got punched again and we just kind of stayed down.”
Hand led Oklahoma with 19 points and Ellenberg scored 11 points on 5-for-17 shooting. The Sooners, had won two straight games against Top 25 opponents this season, fell to 0-13 all-time against teams ranked No. 1.
Destiny Williams added 13 points and Kimetria Hayden and Brooklyn Pope each had 10 as Baylor put six players in double figures. The Sooners frequently had a post player behind Griner and Aaryn Ellenberg sagging in front of her on the offensive end to keep her from getting the ball.
“They, I guess, challenged us to have to have that kind of scoring. I thought that they left players open because they were so concerned on defending Griner,” head coach Kim Mulkey said. “That’s what Division I basketball players do.”
The Bears barely escaped with a one-point win in Norman last season on their way to the regular-season conference title but this time left nothing in question.
Mulkey called timeout with 3:14 remaining after a 12-0 run pushed the lead to 32, then sent her front-liners back onto the court with something special planned. Griner connected on her first 3-pointer of the season on Baylor’s next possession, and that got the reserves off the Bears bench.
“She can shoot the 3. The unfortunate thing is she’s playing for a coach that won’t let her shoot it much. But Brittney is an outstanding 3-point shooter,” Mulkey said.
“I guess she got tired of being banged in there and asked me could she shoot a 3, and I said, ‘Come off the stagger and go shoot it.’”
After falling behind by six right off the bat, Oklahoma rallied back to take a brief lead at 16-15 when Ellenberg’s jumper along the right baseline finished the Sooners’ own run of six points in a row.
Hayden responded with a three-point play, and Pope followed with one of her own on the next possession to start a 10-2 response that put Baylor ahead to stay. Sims’ runner gave the Bears their first double-digit lead at 30-20 with 6:51 to go before halftime.
Baylor led by as many as 17 late in the first half and 43-28 at halftime before Oklahoma made its charge to get back within six early in the second half, only to get turned away by Condrey’s 3-pointer.
“When (Condrey) hit that 3, it definitely gave us a boost. That was the spark that we needed to get us going,” Griner said. “After that, I just feel like everybody was ready to move the ball around and we got the looks that we needed to get to get that lead.”