No. 1 Baylor not just Griner’s team
Published: Tuesday, March 5, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, March 5, 2013 08:03
The West Virginia women’s basketball team finished its regular season home schedule in heartbreak Saturday night when No. 1 Baylor cruised to a 31-point victory, 80-49. The headline of the memorable game, bringing a record 13,447 fans, was once again senior center Brittney Griner, but the Lady Bears’ balanced attack was the real story.
The 6-foot-8 Griner took charge of the game early. Her triple-double of 28 points, 10 blocks and 10 rebounds allowed Baylor to cruise once it got past a small hurdle in the second half when WVU got within 8, 42-34. The senior’s triple-double was the first of any WVU opponent at the Coliseum – men’s or women’s.
"Teammates found me and got me the ball," she said. "(I was) just playing hard, and teammates found me. They (WVU) don’t back down; they drive. They don’t change what they do. They bring it right in the lane, so I guess that’s where I got my blocks from."
The eye-opener Saturday night was seeing how balanced Baylor was. It wasn’t all Griner – even though she will get the headlines following such a game. In reality, however, the Lady Bears have a stacked roster.
"I feel like sometimes I’m repeating myself, but this is not the Brittney Griner show," said Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey. "I’ve got six McDonald’s All-Americans out there. I’ve got kids at every position that can play; they can score. They’re unselfish. They came to Baylor to play together.
"They’ve wanted to win a championship. They’ve done that, and now the challenge for them is to try to win another one. They’re all very good players. Brittney gets a lot of the attention. She should. If you look down the stat sheet, they all score. I think tonight from the tip, we guarded West Virginia."
Mulkey praised West Virginia’s defense and the fact Baylor is more known for its offensive game, but defensively, it is right there with the likes of WVU.
"We gave them some open looks; we got confused a little on some switches, but every time an opponent shoots, we put a hand in their face. We play as tough, hard-nosed defense as West Virginia does," she said.
For Mulkey, it’s not all about the undefeated winning streaks in the conference, the consecutive home games won or any of those records; it’s all about winning and focusing on the biggest prize in women’s collegiate basketball.
"I’ve never been a coach that talked about streaks," she said. "This team feels no pressure to repeat as a national champion. If I think they did, they wouldn’t be able to perform. This team has a personality that knows we’re good. We’re going to give you our best shot, and if you beat us, you’re going to have deserved it. And that’s what I get to coach every day.
"We count down the games. We do that. We know we have one more conference game, and then we have three in the (Big 12) Tournament, and then we have the biggest six of the whole year coming up in the NCAA Tournament. The National Championship is what’s important."
While it was a great opportunity for West Virginia, Baylor was just too strong when it was all said and done.
For those other 63 teams in the NCAA Tournament, knocking off top-ranked Baylor will be the ultimate challenge with this balanced roster.