|Baylor center Brittney Griner (42) rebounds the ball over Kansas State forward Branshea Brown (34) in the first half of a semifinal game at the NCAA college women's Big 12 conference basketball tournament, Friday, March 9, 2012 in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Jeff Tuttle)|
K-State falls to Griner, Baylor in Big 12 tourney
KANSAS CITY, Mo.—Brittany Chambers could finally admit it about 30 minutes after the game.
It's kind of fun playing against Brittney Griner.
"She's an unbelievable player," said Kansas State's point guard. "It's fun to be on the court with her, I guess, now saying it. Not when it's happening."
Not when No. 1 Baylor's star player is putting together the best game of her career.
Griner set a Big 12 tournament record with a career-high 45 points, and had 10 rebounds and seven blocked shots in the Lady Bears' 86-65 rout of the Wildcats in the semifinals Friday.
Griner finished 19 of 28 from the field to better her career scoring mark of 41 points, set in the Lady Bears' regular-season finale against Iowa State, and got a standing ovation from fans of both teams when she checked out of the game with just over 2 1/2 minutes remaining.
"I've watched Baylor play a lot this year, and I know in the recent contests I've watched, I've seen coach Kim Mulkey over on the sideline admonishing her team with this message: `42,'" Kansas State coach Deb Patterson said, referring to Griner's jersey number.
"She understands that's the best player in the country, and they get her the ball."
Over and over again.
Griner scored the opening eight points for Baylor, and at one point midway through the first half was on pace to finish with 72, which would have shattered the women's Division I record of 60 set by Long Beach State's Cindy Brown in February 1987.
"We took what they gave us. They were in one-on-one coverage on Griner early in the game," Mulkey said. "That's what they chose to do, and we threw it in there."
Destiny Williams also contributed 12 points and 14 rebounds for Baylor (34-0), which will play Oklahoma or defending national champion Texas A&M on Saturday as it attempts to become the first program, men's or women's, to finish a season 40-0.
Chambers had 18 points to lead Kansas State (19-13), which has lost 14 straight to the Lady Bears. JuliAnne Chisholm and Jalana Childs wound up with 11 points each.
"We lined up against a dominant team, and I thought we had segments where we played well," Patterson said. "It was a tremendous game for Brittney."
Kansas State was still within 21-18 on a basket by Branshea Brown with 10:36 left in the first half, but Griner -- who else? -- scored the game's next three baskets.
It was the start of a 16-2 run for Baylor that included eight points from Griner, Terran Condrey's only two field goals of the half, and jumpers by Sims and Kimetria Hayden.
By the time Sims converted a three-point play off a feed from Griner, and Williams scored on a fast break, the Lady Bears had surged to a comfortable 42-22 halftime advantage.
"It's our defense and, you know, we just play hard," Griner said. "That's how it turns out."
Just about the only thing for Kansas State fans to cheer about was country music superstar Trace Adkins delivering the national anthem, and even that excitement was somewhat subdued.
You see, Adkins is a big fan of Mulkey because of their days at Louisiana Tech. Adkins was a freshman walk-on football player and Mulkey was the senior point guard for the reigning national champion women's basketball team. While they never got to know each other in college, they finally get in touch a couple months ago, striking up a friendship.
Adkins sang the national anthem before Baylor's game earlier this year against Texas A&M. Once he finished his rendition at Municipal Auditorium, he watched the game with his arms folded and a contented expression on his face from behind the Baylor bench.
The Wildcats are left to await their fate from the NCAA tournament selection committee, which will announce the bracket Monday night. Kansas State hardly fared well in three blowout losses to Baylor, but did knock off then-No. 9 Texas A&M and then-No. 10 Texas Tech.
The Wildcats also beat Iowa State in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 tournament, a team that boasts a similar at-large resume and also awaits the selection process.
"I'm hopeful our RPI and playing the strength of schedule we did, which was astronomical, that we'll get a good seed," Patterson said. "We're very deserving of it."