Cyclones stopped cold
DALLAS – Iowa State guard Nikki Moody’s layup attempt rolled around and almost completely stopped on the back of the rim before finally falling off.
Even if Moody had finished off her nifty steal in the backcourt, it wouldn’t have helped the Cyclones much against No. 1 Baylor. The outcome in the Big 12 women’s tournament championship game was pretty much decided – and there were still a few seconds remaining in the first half.
Brittney Griner scored 31 points and the defending national champion Lady Bears won their third consecutive Big 12 tournament title, rolling past No. 23 Iowa State 75-47 Monday night.
Count Cyclones coach Bill Fennelly among those who figured the Big 12 title was decided long ago. When he showed the team where it stood in league stats and standings during the season, he simply erased Baylor, which won the regular season by six games.
“I think they are different than anyone in the country,” said Fennelly, whose team ended up as the runner-up in both the regular season and the tournament. “They’ve proven that over the last two years. What they did to us tonight, they’ve done to a lot people over the last two years.”
Moody’s miss was the best illustration of the lowest-scoring half in Big 12 championship game history. Iowa State had two scoreless stretches totaling 14 minutes and trailed 41-13. The Cyclones had six missed shots and eight turnovers during a 19-0 Baylor run that covered 8 minutes and wiped out a 6-5 Iowa State lead.
The Cyclones had 15 turnovers before halftime and just seven rebounds – the same number as Griner, who outscored Iowa State by 10 in the first half with 23 points on 11-of-12 shooting. Baylor had the lead for good on Griner’s putback after she grabbed the rebound of her only missed shot of the half.
“Just to see her skill set improve through the last four years,” said Anna Prins, who led Iowa State with 20 points but couldn’t get anything going until Baylor had the game in hand in the second half. “I felt like she couldn’t miss tonight.”
Odyssey Sims added 20 points for Baylor (32-1), including three 3-pointers in the first 4 minutes after halftime.
Moody followed Sims with 12 for the Cyclones (23-8) in a matchup of the top two seeds in their first Big 12 title game since 2007.
Along with the last three Big 12 tournament titles, the Lady Bears have gone undefeated through the league the last two regular seasons for a 49-game conference winning streak. Their fifth Big 12 tournament title – all coming in a stretch that began in 2005, the year of their first national title – broke a tie with Oklahoma for the most in the league.
“Winning never gets old, especially this one,” said Griner, one of five Baylor seniors. “We wanted to celebrate this, everybody did. This is our last go-around with the Big 12. Meant everything to us.”
Baylor will surely be the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament and will play its first games in two weeks on the Waco campus, where they Lady Bears have won a nation-best 55 games in a row. They have won 30 straight overall since losing against Stanford at a tournament in Hawaii a week into the season.
Griner finished 14 of 17 shooting and had as many field goals as Iowa State’s entire team when she came out of the game for good with 4:12 left.
When Griner got near the Baylor bench, she shared a long hug with coach Kim Mulkey while getting a large ovation from an adoring crowd with the game being played only about 100 miles from the Baylor campus.
“She’s the best player I’ve ever coached against,” Fennelly said. “You try a lot of different things. I think we’ve all tried a lot of different things, and none of them have worked.”
Prins was coming off a career-high 32 points Sunday in the Cyclones’ 79-60 semifinal victory over Oklahoma. She scored 17 in the second half and finished 4 of 4 from 3-point range.
Moody ended up with nine of Iowa State’s 21 turnovers, seven of them coming in the decisive first half.
“It was mostly just they pressure a lot on the outside,” Moody said. “It’s harder to pass the ball exactly where you want to. You have to improvise and do different things.”
Baylor had a much tougher semifinal matchup, holding on for a 77-69 victory over Oklahoma State, which was within three in the final minute after the Lady Bears had 18 of their season-high 24 turnovers after halftime. While they never trailed, it was their only game against a Big 12 opponent this season decided by less than 10 points.
The championship game was more like the kind of games Baylor has had in its Big 12 run, a lopsided score with Griner playing a big part.
“I don’t think there’s any question that everyone kind of saw that bear kind of came out of hibernation kind of thing,” Fennelly said.
Sims, the junior All-American point guard and only non-senior in the Baylor starting lineup, responded emphatically after a making a trio of 3-pointers in the second half.
There was a huge fist pump after one of them, then after sinking her third from in front of the Baylor bench, Sims reached down and patted the floor. That put the Lady Bears up 50-18 and Iowa State called time out.