By Krista Pirtle
For some schools the conference tournament is a chance to better position themselves for the Big Dance.
For the No. 1 Baylor Lady Bears it is a chance to prove their depth.
For the seventh time this year, every player that checked in for Baylor left the hardwood with a bucket to her name in the 72-48 victory over No. 9 Texas Tech.
“This program is way more than me,” junior Brittney Griner said. “They always say Brittney Griner and Baylor, but I can’t do it myself. On nights when I’m not shooting that well or my team, we still have everybody that can attack and score. So you can stop me, but you’ve got to stop everybody else on our team too.”
Three Lady Bears finished in double digits, led by sophomore Odyssey Sims with 18. Following her were Griner and junior Nae Nae Hayden with 15 and 10 respectively.
Defensively Baylor blocked 10 shots, Griner with five and freshman Sune Agbuke with two. The team also had eight steals.
“I thought we were very aggressive,” Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey said. “I thought we picked up too many fouls and had to sit players. At the same time, those players going to the bench gave other players opportunities. With me not playing Brooklyn today, it gave Ashley [Field] an opportunity. You like to see the seniors do well, and you like to see your own kid do well. So I was a happy momma at halftime.”
At the charity stripe the Lady Bears were close to perfect, missing only one of their 14 opportunities.
The boards were won by Texas Tech, pulling down four more total rebounds than Baylor. Tech had 16 second chance points off 24 offensive rebounds.
The game began like the previous matches have, with tough defense and a close score. However, after the 14 minute mark in the first half, the Lady Bears went on a 32-7 run.
With the clock expiring before halftime, senior Ashley Field caught the ball at the top of the key and nailed a trey from NBA range.
“After Ashley’s shot everybody was running on the court,” Griner said. “It was like a buzzer beater. It was good. It was just really nice being there, watching our team, and everybody on the bench jumping up and celebrating.”
Baylor led at the half 40-16. In those first 20 minutes Baylor shot 61.5 percent from the floor and held Tech to 18.5 percent.
Both teams scored 32 in the second half, but there was nothing Texas Tech could do to overcome the deficit. Mulkey pulled Griner at 11:18, and the bench went to work, scoring 19 total points.
“I love being able to sit on the bench and watch my team play and execute and keep playing,” Griner said.
On the whole the Lady Bears shot 52 percent from the floor and 62 percent from downtown.
One factor that has worked for Tech in the past and failed this afternoon was the three point basket, as the team shot just 3 of 14.
“They tried to do the same stuff they’d done in the previous two games we played, but the difference is they didn’t make threes,” Mulkey said. “When you spread the floor and go to a nontraditional type of offense to attack Griner or to keep Griner from being effective on the defensive end, you have to get away and deviate from what you normally do.”
Baylor advances to the semifinal round against No. 5 seed Kansas State tomorrow at noon.
“They’re a very well coached team,” Sims said. “Got to get on the shooters. Can’t have too much help side [defense] and keep them in front.”
The Lady Bears have soundly defeated Kansas State in the previous two matchups: 76-41 and 70-41.
“It will be a good game,” Griner said. “It’s always tough playing a team three times, but we’ll do it. We’ll get in film, see what we did wrong and just try to correct it and go out and play hard.”
Friday’s game will be aired on Fox Sports.