By Alan Scher Zagier
COLUMBIA, Mo. — Zone defenses, junk defenses, small ball or walk it up the court: when it comes to opposing teams’ efforts to stop undefeated, top-ranked Baylor, there aren’t many looks coach Kim Mulkey hasn’t encountered this season.
Add Missouri to the ranks of those whose game plans sounded good on paper but didn’t work out as planned once it came time to take the court against No. 1 Baylor and star center Brittney Griner. The 6-foot-8-inch Griner scored 18 points while helping to hold Christina Flores, Missouri’s leading scorer, to just seven points as the Lady Bears rolled past the Tigers 71-41 on Wednesday night.
“We’ve seen it all,” Mulkey said after the game. “I thought they used up the shot clock quite a bit to shorten the game, keep it low-scoring. They stayed in the zone and challenged us to basically be patient and work it around.”
Missouri kept pace with Baylor early on, briefly taking their only lead at 4-2, but trailed 28-18 at halftime after a seven-minute scoring drought that left the Tigers with just six points after 10 minutes. Baylor quickly took control in the second half, scoring the first 10 points and going on a 24-5 run over the first seven minutes of the period to put the game away.
The Lady Bears, who had 11 steals overall, sped up the pace in the second half, scoring 12 fast-break points compared to none for Missouri. They scored 25 points after Missouri’s 22 turnovers. Missouri converted just 31.4 percent of its field-goal attempts and 26 percent on 3-point attempts.
“We’re the victim tonight,” said Missouri coach Robin Pingeton. “It can go from a 12-point game to a 25-point game in a matter of minutes. Their transition game is very aggressive, and when you have a turnover in that open court, it’s going to be a layup at the other end.”
Destiny Williams scored 10 points with 11 rebounds and Odyssey Sims had 12 points for Baylor, which stretched its season-opening winning streak to 22 games. BreAnna Brock and Sydney Crafton led Missouri with eight points each.
Flore was averaging nearly 19 points but made just 3-of-15 field goals and missed all four of her 3-point attempts.
Many of her inside misses came on shots either altered or rejected by Griner, who had four blocks against a Missouri team whose front-line starters are five and six inches shorter. The Tigers (10-10, 0-9) remain winless in their final season in the Big 12 Conference before joining the SEC next year. They set season lows for points in both the first half and the entire game.
“I feel like she took some rushed shots,” Pingeton said of Flores, a senior. “She didn’t have the poise that maybe she’s had as of late with her shot, especially on the perimeter.”
Griner’s impact on Missouri’s game plan was apparent from the opening tip, when 5-foot-9 freshman guard Morgan Eye jumped center against a flat-footed Griner as Eye’s four teammates remained in the backcourt. Griner, needless to say, won possession. She scored Baylor’s first eight points and spent much of the second half on the bench as the game grew increasingly lopsided.
Mulkey said her team was well prepared against Missouri, which starts two freshman guards as Pingeton attempts to build a struggling program in her second year in Columbia after seven years coaching Illinois State.