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
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
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
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
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
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
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.