No. 1 Lady Bears rout UC Santa Barbara, 81-40

By Noah Trister
Associated Press Sports Writer

BOWLING GREEN, Ohio — Brittney Griner was imposing as usual, and top-seeded Baylor showed the kind of offensive balance the Lady Bears don’t always get credit for.

Griner scored 14 points in only 22 minutes, and Baylor rolled to an 81-40 win over 16th-seeded UC Santa Barbara in the Des Moines Regional on Sunday. Brooklyn Pope scored 13 points for the Lady Bears and Destiny Williams added 12. Odyssey Sims contributed 10.

Baylor (35-0) has not lost since falling in the quarterfinals of last year’s NCAA tournament.

Emilie Johnson scored 10 points for UCSB (17-16), but the Gauchos were as overmatched as expected. They swarmed Griner early and prevented her from dominating, but Baylor has plenty of other options.

The Lady Bears move on to the second round, where they’ll face ninth-seeded Florida on Tuesday night.

Griner, the towering center who wowed the crowd by dunking during warmups, went 7 for 11 during the game. UCSB’s Kirsten Tilleman was physical with Griner and drew an early offensive foul on the 6-foot-8 star. The Gauchos at times had two players fronting Griner to prevent Baylor from passing her the ball, but other players took advantage for the Lady Bears.

Baylor’s defense was stifling throughout. The Lady Bears scored the game’s first 12 points, and the Gauchos struggled on several occasions to get a shot off before the shot clock expired.

Griner had an easier time finding space inside late in the first half, scoring back-to-back baskets. Then Sims stole the ball from Johnson and went in for a layup to make it 41-14.

It was 46-16 at halftime.

Griner scored 45 points in the Big 12 tournament against Kansas State, but in the two games since, she’s scored only 25 points on 19 shots. That 86-65 victory over Kansas State was actually the closest game the Lady Bears have played this month.

They figure to be tested at some point, but the NCAA tournament’s No. 1 overall seed had little to worry about in the opener. Baylor’s most anxious moment may have come in the first half when Sims fell hard after being fouled on a fast break, but she seemed fine.

The Gauchos finished sixth in the Big West during the regular season before winning the conference tournament. They played some low-scoring games earlier, such as a 46-37 loss to Washington back in November, but UCSB couldn’t keep this one under control. The Gauchos shot 16 of 60 from the field and had two players foul out.