For all the highlights and dunks the 6-foot-8, two-time All-American has had in four seasons for Baylor, Griner saved one of her best performances for her last regular-season game.
”You saw a dunk on senior night. You saw a kid hit 50 points. You saw a win,” coach Kim Mulkey said. ”It’s one of those historical moments.”
Griner set a Big 12 record with her 50 points, including her first dunk at home since her freshman season, and the top-ranked Lady Bears wrapped up their second consecutive undefeated Big 12 title with a 90-68 victory over Kansas State on Monday night.
”It means everything to just go out with a bang like that,” Griner said. ”Got a dunk finally at home, scored 50. I mean there’s not a better way to go out.”
Baylor (29-1, 18-0 Big 12) is the first team to twice go through regular-season Big 12 play without a loss. The Lady Bears have won a record 46 consecutive Big 12 games, including tournament games, and have won 55 in a row at home.
The defending national champions play their Big 12 tournament opener Saturday in Dallas, and host an NCAA regional in three weeks.
”Postseason, it’s here. It’s time,” Griner said. ”It’s time to bring it.”
Griner made 21 of 28 field goals and eight of 10 free throws, but her 50 points didn’t set a Baylor single-game record. Mary Lowry had a 54-point game for the Lady Bears in 1994, before the formation of the Big 12.
With 3,123 career points, Griner moved into second place on the NCAA career scoring list behind Jackie Stiles, who had 3,393 points for Missouri State from 1997-2001. Baylor would play nine games if it advances to the Big 12 and NCAA tournament championships, meaning Griner would have to average 30 points in those match Stiles.
With 16:56 left, Griner got a pass from fellow senior Kimetria Hayden, took a step around a defender along the baseline and went up for a one-handed slam that sent the record-tying crowd of 10,627 into a frenzy. It was her third career dunk against K-State.
”I just came into the game knowing it was going to be emotional,” Griner said. ”I didn’t know how it was going to play out.”
It was her 14th career dunk, but her first at home since two in a game against Texas State on Jan. 2, 2010. Her past 10 slams had been on the road, including six this season.
”She’s been getting a lot of questions about when’s the next time you’re gonna dunk it at home,” Mulkey said. ”I guess she saved it.”
Before Griner, only six other women had dunked in an NCAA game, for a total of 15 dunks, one fewer than Griner has with games still to play. She had two in last year’s NCAA tournament.
Destiny Williams had 14 points for Baylor, Odyssey Sims added 12 and Hayden had nine points and eight assists.
All five Baylor seniors in uniform were in the starting lineup: Griner, Hayden, Williams, Brooklyn Pope and Jordan Madden. All were honored in a postgame ceremony, along with student assistant Shanay Washington, a former guard who stopping playing after tearing her ACL for the fifth time late last season (three at Baylor, two in high school).
Brittney Chambers had 22 points to lead five K-State players in double figures; all played at least 35 minutes with only two reserves in uniform. The injury-plagued and undersized Wildcats, whose tallest players are 5-11, got 13 points from Haley Texada, 12 from Brianna Craig, 11 from Chantay Caron and 10 from Mariah White.
The Wildcats matched a school record with 15 3-pointers, including four in the first 4 minutes of the second half to keep them close despite Griner’s rim-rocking highlight.
Griner’s dunk put Baylor up 54-45, but Caron responded with a 3-pointer for the Wildcats and then stole the ball from Griner. That led to a layup by Texada that cut the gap to 54-50.
The Wildcats were within 63-60 when Chambers leaned in to make a tough layup with just under 12 minutes left. But they never got closer as Baylor responded with 23-2 run over the next 9 minutes that included 17 points in a row.
”The end results of this game, obviously, is a big margin of victory for Baylor. I was really proud of how long our team was able to keep this game within reach,” K-State coach Deb Patterson said. ”Congratulations to Brittney. … At the same time, I felt like all but about seven minutes of that game, we competed extremely well.”