Griner leads Baylor past Texas A&M
Sophomore scored 20 consecutive points in one stretch of title tilt
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Baylor coach Kim Mulkey is running out of superlatives to describe 6-foot-8 center Brittney Griner.
Griner had 31 points, eight rebounds and seven blocks to lift No. 3 Baylor to a 61-58 victory Saturday against No. 8 Texas A&M for the Big 12 tournament title. Griner's points and blocks were Big 12 championship game records.
"If anybody has another adjective (for Griner's performance), let me know," Mulkey said.
Lady Bears (31-2) cut down the nets and celebrated a second Big 12 tournament championship in three years thanks to the domination by Griner at both ends. During one stretch, she scored 20 consecutive points.
"This game is going to help us when we get in the NCAA tournament,'' Griner said. "There will be times when you get down and you have to be able to fight back."
The Aggies' Danielle Adams, the conference leading scorer at 23 points per game, was held to 12 points on 4-of-19 shooting. Adams missed a 3-pointer with 4 seconds left that would have tied the game.
"I thought it was going in," Adams said. "I thought it looked good when I put it up."
Tyra White added 12 points and nine rebounds for the Aggies (27-5).
Baylor forward Destiny Williams had the primary defensive assignment against Adams. Meanwhile, Aggies coach Gary Blair kept alternating fresh defenders on Griner to no avail.
"It was a great college basketball game," Blair said. "You can see why the Big 12 is like it is now."
The Aggies took a 49-48 lead on a free throw by White with 9:53 remaining. But consecutive baskets by Jordan Madden, Griner and Kimetria Hayden gave Baylor the lead for good.
Hayden came off the bench for 10 points to take some of the offensive pressure off Griner. Williams led the Lady Bears with 11 rebounds.
Baylor had a 50-36 rebounding advantage to offset 22 turnovers.
Texas A&M stunned Baylor by taking a 12-0 lead on the excellent defense by the Aggies' guards. Sydney Colson and Sydney Carter combined for six steals in the first half and were quick to collapse in the post when Griner put the ball on the floor.
The Lady Bears didn't score a point in the opening 4:50, but began to chip away at the deficit after a short jumper by Williams ended the scoring drought. Baylor used a 23-6 run to move ahead 23-18 with 5:22 left in the half.
"We've been down before this year on several occasions and fought back,'' said Baylor forward Melissa Jones, who had nine rebounds. "We knew even though we were down, we could still find a way to win."
Griner finished the half with 16 points on 5-of-9 shooting after a 1-for-5 start.
Texas A&M closed within 30-28 at the break.
Adams took just three shots in the first half with Griner lurking in the lane. The Lady Bears got back in the game with a big lift from Hayden, who had eight points in 15 first-half minutes.
A&M finished 1 for 14 from 3-point range.
Baylor likely will get the top seed for the NCAA tournament, and Blair believes his team will earn a No. 2 seed. The Aggies are 0-3 against Baylor this year, but want another shot at their conference rivals in the NCAA tourney.
"We know we're on their level," Colson said.