By Parmida Schahhosseini
It was a bittersweet moment for Baylor fans as they watched the winningest senior class defeat Kansas State 90-68 in its last regular season game in front of a crowd of 10,600 Monday at the Ferrell Center.
It was only fitting that senior center Brittney Griner scored a career-high 50 points, which also happened to be a new Big 12 record for the most points scored in a game as the crowd cheered her name.
“I couldn’t have done it without my teammates,” Griner said. “I’m glad I got to do it right here in front of our fans.”
In light of senior night, head coach Kim Mulkey changed her usual line up by starting senior forward Destiny Williams in lieu of junior guard Odyssey Sims to comprise the lineup of all seniors.
Baylor didn’t start the game it wanted as the Lady Bears were down by five after scoring the first four points in the game.
Turnovers allowed Kansas State to have more possessions, but Baylor responded with an 8-0 run sparked by a 3-point jumper from senior guard Kimetria Hayden.
Shortly after, senior guard Jordan Madden disrupted Kansas State’s passing lane by catching the ball for a steal and making the basket, causing the crowd to roar.
Kansas State’s 3-point shooting kept the Wildcats in the game early as they made eight shots in the first half to keep the score within 11 at the end of the half.
After a couple of free throws from Sims, Baylor turned up the pressure on both sides of the floor.
Williams got the offensive rebound and laid it in, getting the crowd back into it.
A layup from Kansas State quieted the crowd a little until Baylor forced a turnover when they clogged the passing lane. Baylor went on a 19-6 run widening the gap.
Kansas State continued to do what they do best: shoot 3-point jumpers to keep the game close. However, in the closing seconds of the half, Kansas State had possession with the shot clock winding down. Griner smacked the shot attempt down for her first block of the night, preventing any momentum for Kansas State as the crowd got wild.
Kansas State started the second half by shooting three 3-point jumpers to try and cut the lead down, but Griner responded by recording her 14th career dunk as the crowd jumped to its feet to cheer. Kansas State responded with another 3-point jumper, cutting the lead to four.
After an exchange of points, Baylor made adjustments to begin another run.
“They are a shooting team so we expected that,” Hayden said. “At least we had our hands up in their face. It was a contested shot.”
Both teams began exchanging points as Kansas State continued spreading the floor to create more open shots for its players. This left the Baylor defense off balance by wearing them out. However, Baylor continued to attack the paint with Griner being physical inside for easy layups.
With the score within five, Baylor went on an 11-2 run as the defense caused Kansas State to commit back-to-back turnovers leading to points for Baylor. With the energy high, freshman guard Niya Johnson drove inside the paint and got fouled.
Johnson made the first free throw but missed the second.
Williams got the rebound and laid it in for a quick score.
Kansas State tried to respond but Griner answered with a hard block.
Baylor began to open the game up as they only allowed Kansas State to score eight points in the last 10 minutes, leading to a 22-8 run to finish the game.
“I thought that we actually communicated more on the defensive end,” Williams said. “We gave up some threes through bad communication, and I thought that as seniors we had to step it up in situations like that.”
This game concludes Baylor’s regular season.
The Lady Bears will be the top-seeded team in this weekend’s Big 12 Tournament after posting a perfect 18-0 conference record and a 29-1 overall record.