No. 1 Baylor 70, No. 17 Iowa St. 58
Brittney Griner had an unusual view of Baylor's game-clinching run - from the bench, instead of being in the middle of everything.
With their 6-foot-8 preseason AP All-American taking a breather with three fouls, the Lady Bears finished a big spurt that she started after halftime and beat 17th-ranked Iowa State 70-58 Saturday in their first-ever game as the nation's No. 1 team.
''We were ready to play,'' Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said. ''And I say this in the most complimentary of ways to Brittney Griner. When she got in foul trouble in the second half, we had an 11-point lead when we took her out - we extended that lead.''
Mulkey became the first person to coach a No. 1 women's team after having played for a top-ranked team (Louisiana Tech).
Griner, who finished with 25 points, made a jumper with 15:38 left to push Baylor (14-1) ahead 40-31 and spark a 17-3 run. That came after the Cyclones (12-3) had cut the gap to seven points, the closest since the Lady Bears started both teams' Big 12 opener by scoring the first 16 points.
When teammate Melissa Jones drove for a layup and was fouled less than a minute later, Griner came out of the game before Jones hit her free throw. The Lady Bears were up 55-34 before Griner returned 4 1/2 minutes later, a span during which freshman Odyssey Sims scored eight of her 15 points.
''They didn't go away. We did a good job of staying in control,'' said Sims, who also had a game-high eight rebounds. ''We grew up at the right time.''
Things certainly change when Griner is out of the game.
''One, they're not doubling posts anymore, they're guarding you one-on-one,'' Mulkey said. ''That's how we were able to extend the lead. They clog it so much with Griner and them that we have a tendency to have Brittney bail us out instead of just running the offense and get shots for anybody on the floor. ''
Baylor rose to No. 1 this week, ending two-time defending national champion Connecticut's record 51-week run at the top. The Huskies won an NCAA-record 90 games in a row until losing to Stanford. The Lady Bears' only loss this season was by one point in November to UConn, the same team that beat them in last year's Final Four.
In its first game in nine days, Baylor missed its first six shots before Griner's short jumper gave it a 5-0 lead nearly 5 minutes into the game - she had already made three free throws.
Griner's three-point play 7 1/2 minutes in made it 16-0 before the Cyclones, after missing their first eight shots and committing five turnovers, finally got a jumper from Lauren Mansfield. Williams and Sims also had three-point plays in that opening spurt for the Lady Bears.
''Baylor's defense was very aggressive early,'' Cyclones coach Bill Fennelly said. ''Sometimes you've got to score enough to stop the bleeding or you've got to defend. We were having trouble doing either one of them. ... It was a struggle early.''
Last season, Iowa State hit 16 3-pointers in a 69-45 victory that is still the Lady Bears' worst loss since the 2008-09 season. The Cyclones had only seven 3s Saturday.
Kelsey Bolte had 21 points and Anna Prins 15 for the Cyclones, who had won six consecutive games and hadn't allowed more than 64 points all season.
Destiny Williams, who was on the U.S. national team Fennelly coached in the summer of 2009, scored 11 points for the Lady Bears in their 12th consecutive win at home.
Jones, the senior captain, had a steal that led to a 3-pointer by Kimetria Hayden during the second-half run with Griner sitting on the bench. Sims then hit two 3-pointers in less than a minute.
''I'm president of the Melissa Jones fan club,'' Fennelly said. ''That kid changes the game. ... You put that piece on that team, they're dangerous. Brittney's great. Odyssey's great. They're all really good. You sit and watch a kid like that play, you really appreciate it.''
Prins had two fouls guarding Griner in the first 3 1/2 minutes and was limited to only 10 minutes in the first half, though she had 11 points with three 3-pointers by halftime.
''Finding that eight minutes we didn't compete will be real important for the rest of the season,'' Prins said. ''But just the mental attitude of no matter what, just fighting back, you never know what can happen when you do that. ... Build on the positive things that we did and work on what we didn't do well.''