No. 1 Baylor 83, No. 22 UCLA 50

When first-year UCLA coach Cori Close asked Rebekah Gardner

after the game what she wanted from the rest of her team moving

forward, the senior guard responded with one phrase – ”box

out.”

The 22nd-ranked Bruins weren’t able to do that against Brittney

Griner and No. 1 Baylor, which took over after halftime and went on

to an 83-50 win in a semifinal game of the preseason WNIT.

”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.”

Griner opened the second half with a putback basket of her own

miss while being fouled, and just like that the tone was set for

the Lady Bears to completely dominate the rest of the way.

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

a 30-2 run during which UCLA (2-1) had 10 turnovers and the Lady

Bears had nine offensive rebounds.

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

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

The victory by the Lady Bears (3-0) sets up a No. 1 vs. No. 2

matchup in the WNIT championship game. They play No. 2 Notre Dame

at home on Sunday, after the Irish beat Hartford 98-43 earlier

Thursday night.

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.

Gardner had 15 points and nine rebounds to lead UCLA, which is

playing without two injured starters.

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

before the break.

”You can’t give a team confidence, they have to earn it,”

Close said. ”The first half, I think they earned some confidence,

they earned something that they can build on moving forward. … In

the second half, we crumbled, there’s no doubt about it, but I

think our young ladies are coachable enough to learn from

that.”

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.

Baylor had scored 19 consecutive points after Griner blocked a

shot that Jordan Madden caught and then drove the length of the

court of a layup for a 56-29 lead. 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 scored 11 more in a row.

”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.”

Baylor 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.”

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.”

UCLA’s best spurt of the game was an 8-0 run before halftime

during a stretch when Baylor had five turnovers and Mulkey was

assessed a technical foul. The Bruins were within 27-23 on

Gardner’s pull-up jumper with 28 seconds left.

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.