No. 1 Baylor 83, No. 22 UCLA 50

Brittney Griner opened the second half for top-ranked Baylor

with a putback basket of her own miss while being fouled.

Just like that, the tone was set for the Lady Bears to take full

control against No. 22 UCLA on way to an 83-50 victory on Thursday

night, setting up a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup in the preseason WNIT

championship game.

A couple of minutes after Griner’s physical play, Baylor went on

a 30-2 run. The first part of that was 19 consecutive points that

was capped when Griner blocked a shot that Jordan Madden caught and

then drove the length of the court of a layup.

”When we start making runs like that, I get a blocked shot and

my team reacts and gets it, you definitely start feeding off

that,” Griner said. ”You want to get it again. … Each time we

try to make a play or get a steal or a big board, we just keep

trying to do that.”

Madden’s layup made it 56-29 before Thea Lemberger’s reach-in

jumper with 9:50 left was their UCLA’s first field goal in 8 1/2

minutes. But Baylor then responded by scoring 11 more in a row.

Next for the Lady Bears (3-0) is No. 2 Notre Dame at home on

Sunday, after the Irish beat Hartford 98-43 earlier Thursday

night.

Baylor had nine offensive rebounds while UCLA had 10 turnovers

in that game-turning run. The Lady Bears finished with a 52-34

rebounding edge, and outscored UCLA 48-18 in the paint.

”Your defense can be special for you,” coach Kim Mulkey said.

”It was a great example for them, to see what I’ve been trying to

tell them. We’re going to have lots of offensive nights like this.

But if they’ll just commit to being the best defensive team that

maybe we’ve had here, I think they’ll understand that, hey, you

finally hung in there long enough to extend the lead.”

Griner had 18 points with 14 rebounds, the 28th double-double in

75 career games for Griner, the 6-foot-8 junior phenom who was a

unanimous preseason AP All-American pick after also being on that

team at the end of last season. Her six blocked shots pushed her

career total to 410, only 36 from matching the Big 12 career

record.

Odyssey Sims scored 22 points while Destiny Williams had 16

points and 10 rebounds for Baylor.

Rebekah Gardner had 15 points and nine rebounds to lead UCLA

(2-1), which is playing without two injured starters.

The Bruins held tough before halftime, down only 27-23 just

before the break, before Baylor completely took over.

”Well, it was really simple, rebounding and taking care of the

basketball,” UCLA first-year coach Cori Close said. ”We were just

in the locker room and I asked Rebekah Gardner what she wanted from

her team moving forward from this, and she said one phrase, box

out.”

Jasmine Dixon was UCLA’s lone returning starter after being its

second-leading scorer and top rebounder last season, but she was

lost for this season when she ruptured her Achilles tendon in a

workout in September. The Bruins are hopeful that Markel Walker,

another expected starter, can return next month after undergoing

offseason thumb surgery.

Notre Dame was the national runner-up last season, but the Irish

lost 76-65 in a December game at Baylor.

It will be Baylor’s second 1 vs. 2 game, though its first as the

No. 1 team. The Lady Bears were No. 2 when they loss 65-64 at

top-ranked Connecticut the first week of last season.

”Who scheduled this? Who agreed to this?,” Mulkey said

sarcastically. ”But it’s OK. I say it all the time, you don’t win

championships in November and December. And our program’s at a

point now where, guys, we’re going to play in a matter of weeks the

No. 2 team, the No. 3 team and the No. 4 team.”

The Lady Bears still have upcoming games against Tennessee and

Connecticut.

After Sims’ driving layup and free throw at the end of the first

half snapped an 8-0 UCLA run, Griner opened the second half with a

putback of her own miss to stretch the lead to 32-23.

During pregame warmups, Lady Bears players wore T-shirts with

”300 Mulkey” on them in recognition of the coach’s 300th career

victory, which came in a 91-31 victory over Chattanooga in their

last game Sunday. Mulkey was then given flowers and the game ball –

before going out and getting victory No. 301.

UCLA’s eight consecutive points came during a stretch when

Baylor had five turnovers and Mulkey was assessed a technical

foul.

Mulkey’s technical foul came with 1:37 when she questioned a

traveling call against Griner, the fourth consecutive Baylor

possession that ended with such a turnover.

The Bruins were within 27-23 on Gardner’s pull-up jumper with 28

seconds left.

Baylor had the final possession, and Sims held the ball in the

backcourt before making her move. She drove for a layup with 4.8

seconds left and made the free throw after being fouled.

”We have to be a 40-minute team, like we were playing with them

in the first half,” Gardner said. ”Like I said, we need to box

out.”