WACO, Texas – Texas Tech has played Baylor closer than any other Big 12 team this season.
Still, the Lady Raiders have lost like everybody else.
Brittney Griner had 18 points and 14 rebounds for the top-ranked Lady Bears, who overcame a seven-point deficit in the second half for a 56-51 victory Saturday night to clinch at least a share of the Big 12 title.
"Certainly, it hurts like heck. There are no moral victories," Tech coach Kristy Curry said. "We certainly seemed to play our best basketball against those guys. We've got to bottle that up and do that in next four opportunities we're blessed with. Hopefully, we're going to finish strong. You get in the eyes of the (NCAA selection) committee, and hope they take a look at scores every once in a while."
Texas Tech (17-9, 5-9) is the only conference team to keep the final margin against Baylor under 10 points — and did it twice already this season. The Lady Raiders lost 72-64 at home a month ago to the Lady Bears, after beating them there last season.
After Baylor (27-0, 14-0) scored the game's first nine points, Texas Tech recovered to go up nine before halftime.
"We talk about being 12 strong. Basketball is a game of runs. You know they're going to make a run," 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 consecutive assists to Destiny 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 a layup that snapped a 46-all tie with 7:49 left.
Monique Smalls had 13 points to lead Texas Tech, while Kierra Mallard had 10.
After Baylor's 9-0, start, the Lady Raiders finally scored when Smalls banked a 3-pointer at the 15:42 mark. Mallard and Casey Morris hit 3s over the next 2 minutes and they tied the score at 9. That trio of 3s started a 26-8 run and included another 3-pointer by Jordan Barncastle.
Four free throws by Griner in the closing minute of the first half cut the gap to 32-30 before Mallard hit a 3-pointer with 6 seconds left for a 35-30 lead.
Baylor missed its first six shots of the second half was still down 39-32 when Christine Hyde made a free throw with just under 16 minutes left.
Then came the game-turning 10-2 run that began with a flurry of six points in 26 seconds. That included two steals by Baylor in the backcourt.
"We were the ones who were slipping up," Morris said. "If they got anything, I think it was us on defense more that it was them changing up anything on offense."
After the game, the Lady Bears had what they hope — and really expect — to be only the first of several championship celebrations this season. They cut the nets down and lifted a trophy, though it was actually the 2011 Big 12 championship hardware from last season.
"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," coach Kim 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."
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, the only undefeated team in major college basketball, can clinch the Big 12 title outright with a win at home Tuesday over Texas.
"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."