No. 1 Baylor 73, No. 22 Texas A&M 50
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP)
The Aggies lost to their Big 12 rival three times last season - twice in the regular season, once in the Big 12 tournament - before getting a fourth chance in the NCAA tournament. They made it count with a victory that spurred them on to a national championship.
Well, Texas A&M lost twice to Baylor in the regular season again. And on Saturday, the Lady Bears rolled to a 73-50 victory for another Big 12 tournament title.
''Hopefully it'll be like last year,'' Blair said, ''and we get to play them a fourth time.''
Odyssey Sims poured in a season-high 26 points for Baylor, making up for an off afternoon by Brittney Griner, who was held to a season-low 11 points and three rebounds.
Not that it made a whole lot of difference.
After falling into a deep hole early in the game, Texas A&M seemed to squander open scoring opportunities whenever it threatened to get back into the game.
Sydney Carter paced the Aggies (22-10) with 12 points, but was 3 of 12 from the field and botched a couple of lay-ups. Kelsey Bone had 10 points on 4-for-12 shooting, while Alexia Standish - who averaged 19 points in two wins in Kansas City - was held to two on 1-for-6 shooting.
''Most people know the focus is on Brittney, but I said it yesterday, it's going to be about the supporting cast,'' Bone said. ''That was the story.''
Texas A&M played its third straight game without top scorer Tyra White. She's been hampered by her left foot and Blair elected to rest her for the NCAA tournament rather than risk any more damage. White suited up for the game but never checked in.
''We tried it this morning after breakfast,'' Blair said. ''She went back to the trainer and there was too much pain, and then the game got out of hand.''
The Lady Bears (34-0) wrapped up their second straight title and fourth overall by beating the Aggies for the third time this year. Baylor also beat Texas A&M to win the tournament title in 2009 and again last season, when the Aggies returned the favor in the NCAA tournament.
Baylor will head to the dance trying to make history.
With six more wins, coach Kim Mulkey's crew will become the first team in men's or women's major college basketball to finish 40-0. Baylor also would become the 15th unbeaten national champ - Mulkey was part of one of those teams, Louisiana Tech, in 1981.
''We've been winning all season. We've been successful. This is great,'' Sims said, ''but now we're focused on six games. That's what we're striving for.''
The defending national champion, Texas A&M became the first school in league history to make five straight Big 12 tournament title game appearances. The Aggies won the title in 2008 and 2010, but lost to the Lady Bears in the other three games.
They still have not beaten a No. 1 team in six tries. Five have been against Baylor.
''We probably won't play another team better than Baylor,'' Bone said. ''It's up to us as a team to get better and use these things as a learning experience.''
The Lady Bears got off to a phenomenal start at both ends of the court.
Griner had all five of her first-half points during a 14-0 run to start the game, while the Baylor defense forced the Aggies into three turnovers and six straight misses.
Bone finally scored inside with 14:27 left in the half for Texas A&M's first points of the game, but Sims promptly hit a 3-pointer at the other end to make it 17-2.
Oddly enough, it was Baylor that suddenly got rattled.
Williams was hit with a technical foul for her role in a loose-ball scrum, part of a four-point trip down floor for Texas A&M. The Aggies rattled off 11 consecutive points to climb back into the game, drawing within 21-13 on a jumper by Cierra Windham.
The teams mostly traded baskets into halftime, and the 15-point lead Texas A&M spotted the defending Big 12 champs in the opening minutes wound up being the difference at the break.
Sims paced the Lady Bears with 11 points, but it was Griner's ineffectiveness that kept Texas A&M close. She was 2 for 5 from the field and managed two rebounds against Bone, who fronted her in the post or physically pushed her off the block each time down floor.
It didn't stay close for long.
Sims converted a three-point play in the opening minutes of the second half, and the Baylor juggernaut went on a 10-2 run to turn the game into a blowout. By the time the buzzer sounded, the Lady Bears' starters had grown comfortable relaxing on the bench.
''We've worked so hard to have a chance to win six basketball games,'' Mulkey said, ''and now those six basketball games are right here before you.''