By Krista Pirtle
Thus far, the No. 1 Baylor Lady Bears have defeated every opponent — 35 to be exact — by an average margin of 27.7 points.
Baylor leads the nation in blocked shots with 7.9 per game and is second in field goal percentage defense.
However, the only number that matters is five after an 81-50 victory over the No. 16 seed UC Santa Barbara in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
“We’ve been waiting for this game for the longest time,” junior Destiny Williams said. “We had a bunch of days in practice going hard, and we were going to be facing another team and I thought we were going strong and starting strong, knocking out every shot, taking time how we’ve been practicing, and I thought we finished the game just as we started. It was a good one.”
Junior Brittney Griner paced the balanced attack by the Lady Bears with 14 points followed by junior Brooklyn Pope with 13, Williams with 12, freshman Sune Agbuke with 11 and sophomore Odyssey Sims with 10.
Griner said Agbuke has come a long way, particularly in practice, and her game is getting better as Griner continues to work with her.
“I really can’t wait for this summer to work with her even more,” Griner said about Agbuke.
The bench got an adequate amount of playing time, seeing as the starters did not play for more than 22 minutes out of 40.
All of the Lady Bears played for at least 12 minutes Sunday afternoon.
“I was especially proud that everybody got to play … about 20 minutes each today and we didn’t really lose the lead. We extended everything that we did, and when I say extended, we extended the score, and sometimes that doesn’t happen,” head coach Kim Mulkey said.
The highlight of the game happened with 53 seconds remaining as senior Lindsay Palmer became the 10th Lady Bear to score, chasing down a loose ball in the backcourt and sinking a shot past the Heslip zone as the shot clock wound down.
“That’s when you live and write, shot clock was winding down, two, one, and she got her a good look at it, and you’re just happy for her,” Mulkey said. “The team is happy for her. I think, you know, that’s probably going to make SportsCenter, huh? It won’t be Brittney Griner on Baylor’s team, it will be Lindsay Palmer. Good for her.”
Defensively, Baylor held UCSB to only 16 of 60 from the floor; Santa Barbara did not even score until the 14:48 mark.
“Well, you’re always proud when you can get shot clock violations, but I was especially proud today because they obviously run an offense that keeps teams on defense for 30 seconds, because if you look at the scores of their games, that must be their philosophy … I just thought our kids played from the shot clock from the defensive end of the floor and it excites them,” Mulkey said.
Next up, the Lady Bears face No. 9 seed Florida, who upset No. 8 seed Ohio State on Sunday 70-65.
Mulkey said Florida is a very physical and athletic team.
“I thought that Florida came out ready to play,” she said on Sunday, “and when you can come to an environment and basically you’re playing a road game — because I didn’t see a whole lot of other colors in that gym other than red — that tells you how good Florida is, and we will get in that film room tonight and get on the floor tomorrow and expect a very good basketball game Tuesday.”
The Lady Bears take on the Gators at 6:05 p.m. today.