No. 1 Baylor women beat Texas Tech, clinch Big 12
WACO, Texas – Brittney Griner stretched all of her 6-foot-8 body on the floor and did her version of "snow angels" in the confetti that littered the court.
Baylor coach Kim Mulkey climbed a ladder, her two children with her like they were after the Lady Bears won the 2005 national championship, and clipped down the final snippets of the net.
The top-ranked and still-undefeated Lady Bears had what they hope — and really expect — to be only the first of several championship celebrations this season. They clinched at least a share of the Big 12 regular season title with a 56-51 victory over Texas Tech on Saturday night.
"You kept asking me when we were 25-0 and 26-0, and I just kept telling y'all, we haven't won anything yet. Now we've won something, so let's enjoy it for the night," Mulkey said. "And go back to work and try to clinch it. And if we lose the next four, we've reached our first goal."
The Lady Bears (27-0, 14-0), the only undefeated team in major college basketball, overcome one of their worst extended stretches of bad play all season to beat Tech (17-9, 5-9), the only Big 12 team to keep the final margin against them under 10 points.
"Our next goal will be the conference tournament, and then our next goal is to win six games in the NCAA tournament," Mulkey said. "We've made that perfectly clear from Day One. We're not afraid of pressure, we're not afraid of saying it."
No. 14 Texas A&M (19-6, 10-4) remained four games behind the Lady Bears with four games remaining in conference play. The defending national champion Aggies, who beat Oklahoma State on Saturday night, lost 71-48 a week earlier at Waco. Baylor plays at College Station on Feb. 27.
Baylor can clinch the Big 12 title outright with a win at home Tuesday over Texas.
Mulkey and her coaches had preferred to wait for a possible celebration Tuesday night. But they went with the desire of the players to celebrate Saturday night if they had the chance.
"Everybody just kind of wanted to do it tonight," Griner said. "We didn't want to do it the last night, that's senior night, and we want that to be all about the seniors. So we just picked today, and the weekend, so everybody could come out."
When the game ended, Baylor had a full celebration, including confetti falling from the rafters and a trophy presentation — though Mulkey and the players were actually lifting up the 2011 Big 12 championship trophy they won last year. The players were given new Big 12 championship T-shirts and caps.
Griner ran across the court scooping confetti in her hand and throwing it up in the air before doing "snow angels" like she did in last year's celebration.
When the sellout crowd of 10,381 fans was invited to mingle on the court, many of them crowded around the goal where coaches and players were taking turns clipping off their individual pieces of the net. The last on the ladder was Mulkey with her children, including daughter Makenzie Robertson, now a sophomore guard for the Lady Bears.
Destiny Williams added 16 points for the Lady Bears, getting most of her points on layups — several coming at key times. Her layup with 7:49 left, on a play started by Griner, broke a 46-all tie and put Baylor ahead to stay.
Monique Smalls had 13 points to lead Texas Tech, while Kierra Mallard had 10.
Connecticut and Tennessee are the only other teams to finish within 10 points of Baylor this season.
After Baylor scored the game's first nine points, Texas Tech recovered to build as much as a nine-point lead before halftime.
Texas Tech lost 72-64 at home a month ago against the Lady Bears, after beating them there last season.
"We talk about being 12 strong. Basketball is a game of runs. You know they're going to make a run," Tech coach Kristy Curry said. "It happened to be the first few minutes. We were able to sustain that. I was proud of our kids for digging back in.'
Baylor was still down by seven before a 10-2 run that Kimetria Hayden capped with had consecutive assists to Williams for inside baskets. That put the Lady Bears up 42-41 with just over 12 minutes left.
They went ahead to stay when Griner, surrounded by defenders, passed outside to Terran Condrey, who got the ball right back inside to Williams for her go-ahead layup.
"It definitely shows us it's not going to get easier," Griner said. "And I'm glad that it was a good game like this to get us prepared for the tournament, because it's going to be close games. ... The second half, just staying consistent and just keep running our offense, getting rebounds. I don't think we ever gave up."