Griner leads No. 2 Baylor to big win over FIU
By STEPHEN HAWKINS
AP College Basketball Writer
WACO (AP) — After unfurling its 2010 NCAA Final Four banner before the game, second-ranked Baylor quickly put the season opener out of reach.
Brittney Griner helped the Lady Bears score the game’s first 18 points and they went on to an 83-36 victory over Florida International on Friday night in the first of three games in three days.
“Absolutely, a good way to start off the season,” senior captain Melissa Jones said. “We were just kind of chomping at the bit.”
Griner, the AP preseason All-American who burst onto the national scene last year as a freshman, had 19 points and 10 rebounds for her 17th career double-double. But she didn’t have a dunk or a block — the Panthers kept shooting from outside to avoid the 6-foot-8 Griner.
Jones, who missed 15 games last season because of a right leg injury, had 17 points on 8-of-9 shooting. She added nine rebounds.
“Our two captains, our two returning players, Melissa Jones and Brittney Griner, set the tone for the team right from the beginning,” coach Kim Mulkey said. “We jumped on them.”
Baylor has three quick games at home before playing Tuesday at top-ranked Connecticut, the defending national champion that beat Baylor in the national semifinals last April in San Antonio.
A few minutes before the game, the lights went out in the arena. A spotlight was pointed toward the rafters, where the latest Final Four banner now hangs — not far from the 2005 national championship banner.
“We just need (another) national championship, one on the other side,” Griner said.
The ceremony gave Mulkey a chance to reflect on the success of the program.
“Wow, we’ve come a long way in 11 years. Two Final Fours and we won a national championship. That’s what I thought of,” Mulkey said. “You just think of what we’ve been able to do here. Not just what we did last year, what we have been able to do for 11 years.”
Florida International, from the Sun Belt Conference, provided little resistance for Baylor, which came into the game with its highest preseason ranking ever.
The Lady Bears had a 10-0 lead by the first timeout after five consecutive points by Griner. After the timeout, Jones hit a 3-pointer, Griner converted her second three-point play of the game and Odyssey Sims scored to make it 18-0.
Fanni Hutlassa, a junior from Hungary, finally got the Panthers on the board when she hit consecutive 3-pointers to make it 18-6 — the closest they got. Baylor then scored eight more points in a row to stretch the lead to 20.
Griner had four dunks and broke the NCAA single-season record with 223 blocks last season. She was among five freshmen on a Baylor team that made it to the Final Four after finishing sixth in the Big 12.
A week after the Lady Bears announced that expected starting point guard Kelli Griffin had quit the team after 71 career starts, including all 37 games last season, sophomore Kimetria Hayden started in that spot. Sims, a freshman, played most of her 16 minutes at the point.
Hayden had nine points, four assists and six steals, while Sims had eight points, two assists and a steal. Both made all four of their field goals and had two turnovers each.
Mulkey plans “that position by committee” until Sims is ready to take over and Hayden can move back to her regular guard spot.
The Lady Bears shot 57 percent (34 for 59) and had a 42-25 rebounding advantage.
Hutlassa led the Panthers with nine points, on three 3-pointers. Florida International shot only 28 percent (14 of 49).
Florida International coach Cindy Russo, beginning her 32nd season at the school, got on the team bus only minutes after the game and declined an opportunity to comment.
Baylor, 11-0 in home openers under Mulkey, plays Montana State on Saturday — the tip-off is only about 15 hours after the end of Friday night’s game.
“Noon is quick,” Mulkey said.
Updated November 12, 2010