By Dave Skretta
The Associated Press
LAWRENCE, Kan. — Baylor coach Kim Mulkey had a simple reason for keeping Brittney Griner, the reigning player of the year, on the floor in the waning minutes of a blowout win over Kansas.
“I didn’t recruit her to sit,” Mulkey said matter-of-factly.
Besides, it wasn’t like the Jayhawks were doing much to slow her down.
Griner finished with 33 points while playing all 40 minutes, and the top-ranked Lady Bears had little trouble beating the No. 17 Jayhawks 82-60 on Sunday for their 12th straight win.
“There was no need to rest Brittney,” Mulkey said. “She was pretty much dominating the game. She didn’t seem to be fatigued, she’s healthy and you just go with what you feel.”
Griner was certainly feeling it in the first half, when she scored 22 points to help Baylor (14-1, 4-0 Big 12) seize control of the game. Odyssey Sims added 14 points and Brooklyn Pope had 13 points and 11 rebounds to help the Lady Bears win their 26th straight conference game.
“I like playing here,” said Griner, who had a big game at Allen Fieldhouse last year.
CeCe Harper came off the bench to score a career-high 21 points for the Jayhawks (11-4, 2-2), who switched up their offense in an attempt to keep Griner from dominating on defense.
It worked to some extent.
Angel Goodrich had 16 points and seven assists, and Carolyn Davis finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds as Kansas shot 37 percent from the field.
But the Jayhawks were out-rebounded 52-35, and that led to a massive disparity in points in the paint. 46-26.
“Really proud of our effort,” Kansas coach Bonnie Henrickson said. “There are days you may lose a game but you gain some things, but give Baylor credit. Griner can change what you do.”
Griner started her 128th game for Baylor, breaking Sophia Young’s school record set from 2002-06. She also surpassed Oklahoma’s Courtney Paris for second in Big 12 history with 2,741 points, and now trails only Oklahoma State’s Andrea Riley with 2,835 points.
“She’s a game-changer,” Harper said.
She certainly changed the game in the first half, when Baylor kept working the ball around the perimeter and finding Griner in the post. With at least 5 inches on anybody guarding her, all Griner had to do was turn around and use her soft touch to repeatedly score.
She had 14 points as the Lady Bears raced to a 29-13 lead.
Henrickson eventually called a timeout, and the Jayhawks started to do a better job denying Griner the ball. Davis spent most of the day guarding her, but Kansas would usually collapse a second — and sometimes a third — player to defend the entry pass.
The Jayhawks responded by slowly trimming into the lead.
Harper hit a pair of 3-pointers, Davis scored a couple baskets around the rim and Goodrich hit her second 3 of the half as Kansas whittled the lead to 38-28 with 4:06 left in the half.
Sims answered with two quick baskets, and Griner added two more to end the half.
“We had some shots as a ready shooter,” Henrickson said. “You have to knock down uncontested shots against these guys, and we all have that challenge, to manufacture points against them.”
Griner picked up where she left off after the break, getting an entry pass on the block and turning around for an easy basket. Kimetria Hayden added a layup and Sims hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key to give Baylor a 53-30 lead and force another Kansas timeout.
Later in the half, tempers flared during an inbound play under the Baylor basket.
The Lady Bears were putting a player directly in front of Griner, trying to give her extra room to catch the inbound pass. But every time they lined up, the Jayhawks tried to wedge Davis between them, creating enough separation to keep Baylor’s star from putting up an easy shot.
Mulkey yelled at the officials that the Lady Bears didn’t need to give up the real estate on the floor, while Henrickson insisted that Kansas had the right to line up on defense.
“We were trying to get in the stack. One official told us we could, one official told us we couldn’t,” Henrickson said. “We were just trying to figure it out.”
Davis eventually was granted the space.
It was one of the Jayhawks’ few victories in the game.
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