No. 21 Baylor women’s basketball stomps Texas Tech 61-32 in Brittney Griner’s return

Junior guard Jada Walker (11) drives to the line with a Lady Raider on her hip during No. 21 Baylor women's basketball's conference game against Texas Tech on Sunday in the Foster Pavilion. Kassidy Tsikitas | Photo Editor

By Michael Haag | Sports Editor, Braden Murray | LTVN Sports Director

Even Brittney Griner’s courtside presence had an infectious impact on No. 21 Baylor women’s basketball’s defense.

Go courtside for the blowout victory with LTVN’s Braden Murray

The Bears recorded 13 steals, six blocks and forced 29 turnovers en route to a 61-32 beatdown of Texas Tech on Sunday evening in the Foster Pavilion. The Lady Raiders’ 32 points equaled their lowest-scoring output in program history.

It was also the fourth-fewest points scored by a Big 12 program during league play in conference history.

“Our key to the game was energy [and] effort,” Baylor head coach Nicki Collen said. “I started the group of players that analytically has been our best defensive lineup all season long. … I told them that there’s a reason BG was National Defensive Player of the Year, amongst many awards, I know, but the best way to honor her was to compete at the defensive end with a high level of energy.”

Griner — a former three-time All-American and two-time consensus National Player of the Year — made her first return to Waco since her playing days, as her No. 42 jersey was retired during a pregame ceremony. She became the seventh former Lady Bear to receive the honor, joining Odyssey Sims, Melissa Jones, Nina Davis, Suzie Snider Eppers, Sheila Lambert and Sophia Young.

Collen has been outspoken about making this happen since she was hired by Baylor in 2021.

“We know that Michael Johnson has a track and RGIII has a statue, but I’m not sure Baylor has ever done what we did today,” Collen said. “And if you talk about Baylor Mount Rushmore, Brittney Griner’s on it. And so I think we really honored her in a super special way.”

In terms of the game, though, Baylor (19-6, 8-6 Big 12) was dominant in just about every category, as it held a huge advantage in the rebounding battle (42-26), points off turnovers (29-10), second-chance points (11-0), points in the paint (34-4) and fast break points (10-0).

Texas Tech (16-11, 5-9 Big 12) head coach Krista Gerlich said her team didn’t handle the pressure of playing in an environment like Foster Pavilion, especially when a big occasion like Griner’s return is added onto it.

“We knew it would be packed … we knew what we were walking into,” Gerlich said. “We tried our best to prepare our kids, but most of our kids haven’t played in a stage like that [and] in an environment like that. And it showed clearly today. We had, pretty much, big eyes and blank stares, and a lot of nerves.”

The Bears jumped on the Lady Raiders early, storming out to a 17-4 lead through the first 10 minutes of action. Texas Tech turned the ball over 10 times in the frame and was held scoreless for eight minutes of the quarter.

The Lady Raiders more-than-doubled their first-quarter points total (4) in the second, but it wasn’t by much, as they only put up nine points. Baylor only made 3 of 18 shots in that quarter, yet still held a 14-point lead going into the break.

Texas Tech continued its offensive woes, as it only totaled five points in the third. Baylor forced 10 more turnovers in that quarter, and 13 of the Bears’ 18 third-quarter points came off those turnovers.

43% of the Lady Bears’ total points (32) came in the fourth quarter, as they amassed 14 points as a unit. Baylor shot 58% from the floor in the quarter, though, and it cruised to the 29-point blowout victory.

Senior guard Sarah Andrews (11) and sophomore forward Darianna Littlepage-Buggs (10) were the only two Bears in double-figure scoring. Graduate student forward Aijha Blackwell hauled in 11 rebounds, marking the ninth time this season — and seventh during Big 12 play — that she’s had double-digit rebounds.

Senior guard Jana Van Gytenbeek, who finished with five points, four rebounds, three assists and two steals, said Griner had a pregame message to the team that’s inspiring moving forward.

“She was talking to us about coming together as a team, fighting hard, getting through all the adversity — wins, losses, whatever it is,” Van Gytenbeek said. “Just sticking together and also enjoying the moment we’re in. It’s hard sometimes to really be grateful for where your feet are, and she was telling us to do that, and I think that spoke to a lot of us.”

Sophomore forward Bella Fontleroy added that the team gunned hard to win in front of Griner.

“But at the same time, we know we’re getting to the tail end of regular conference [play], and conference tournament and postseason are coming up,” Fontleroy, who finished with nine points and two blocks, said. “We really need to figure out how to lock in and consistently do those things, have energy, effort and execute game plans.”

Former Lady Bear Brittney Griner made her first return to Waco since her playing days on Sunday. Kassidy Tsikitas | Photo Editor
Former Lady Bear Brittney Griner made her first return to Waco since her playing days on Sunday. Kassidy Tsikitas | Photo Editor

Baylor will aim to build on this win when it hosts Kansas at 7 p.m. on Wednesday in the Foster Pavilion. The Jayhawks (15-10, 8-6 Big 12) handed the Bears their first loss of the season — an 87-66 beatdown — on Jan. 10 in Lawrence, Kan., and they’re currently on a five-game winning streak.

Even though Baylor could secure its first two-game winning streak since it started the year 14-0, Collen said the focus lies in execution and being more consistent.

“I just want to keep playing well,” Collen said. “It’s not about who we play. It’s not about what style they play. We have to make our mark the way we did to start this game. We set the tone. We dictated the pace, and that’s up to us night in and night out.”