By Krista Pirtle
The No. 1 Baylor Lady Bears picked up where they left off, defeating the Oklahoma City University Stars 91-42 Monday evening in Waco.
“I got to play some combinations and situations,” head coach Kim Mulkey said. “I expected everything that I saw but it was just good to have it in a game setting. I thought first of all, the freshmen did fine. I think conditioning for several of them is obvious. They’ve got to learn to play longer stretches, but that’s being a freshman and having to play at an intense level at both ends of the floor.”
From the tip, Baylor was defending both its title and the floor, beginning the game forcing four turnovers. Associated Press preseason All-Americans, senior post Brittney Griner and junior point guard Odyssey Sims, started off the season offensively with a pass to the block for an easy bucket.
“It felt great getting back on the court,” Griner said.
When the freshmen subbed in halfway through the first half, the tempo slowed and the shot selection got more challenging.
“A lot of jitters,” freshman Kristina Higgins said. “I’ve never seen that many people at a basketball game ever. I couldn’t hear anything so I was just trying to play as hard as I could.
Junior forward Mariah Chandler took the court for the first time since being redshirted last season and had a big-time block just under the nine-minute mark.
“It was good to see Mariah Chandler back on the floor after redshirting,” Mulkey said. “It was good to have her back out there.”
At the end of the first half, despite the height advantage the Lady Bears had at every position, the teams were tied at the boards with 23, but Baylor led in points 49-15.
Griner led at the half with 12 points, followed by Sims with 11 and seniors Kimetria Hayden and Brooklyn Pope with seven each.
Baylor only had four turnovers to 12 assists, and Sims personally had four to one.
The Stars also had 19 turnovers at the half.
Oklahoma City only shot 18 percent from the floor for the half while Baylor was at 51.2 percent.
Baylor started the second half in a full-court press made use of fast breaks but fell into a lull around the six-minute mark.
“We knew Coach was a little upset with the group she had in and she put us back in,” Sims said. “We didn’t really try to send a message, but we just wanted to show the freshmen and that group that you’ve got to keep the lead up. It’s not so much as far as intensity but don’t stop playing on defense. Just because you’re up, don’t give up easy layups. Don’t take a play off. You’ve got to keep playing no matter what the score is.”
Sloppy defense and a turnover prompted a timeout and the starters back on the floor.
Every Lady Bear on the roster scored in the match-up.
Sims and Griner led the Lady Bears in total points with 16 each, followed by Hayden and Pope with 11.
Each of the three freshmen scored in the game: post Kristina Higgins led with 10, followed by both guards Niya Johnson with six and Chardonae Fuqua’ with two.
Baylor finished the game with 39 total rebounds, 11 offensively and 28 defensively.
Sims finished the game with seven assists to one turnover.
The Lady Bears kept up their defensive identity, holding Oklahoma City to 26.8 percent from the floor.
“You’ve got to play hard all the time,” Higgins said. “You can’t take a break no matter who the team is. Defense is always number one.”
Baylor will play its final exhibition game at 7 p.m. Monday in the Ferrell Center against Shaw.