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March 8, 2013

Lady Bears going for 3rd straight Big 12 tourney title

DALLAS — The Big 12 women’s tournament could easily turn out to be just like the regular season, determining who finishes as the runner-up to defending national champion Baylor.

Brittney Griner and the top-ranked Lady Bears (29-1, 18-0 Big 12) have won a record 46 consecutive games in the league by an average margin of nearly 25 points. They are the only team to twice go through the Big 12 regular-season schedule without a loss, and swept through the last two conference tournaments.

“We have a goal of winning another trophy, and another title,” coach Kim Mulkey said. “You focus on the three days, and then when that’s done, you’ll get a few days off and head to the most important part of your season.”

That would be the NCAA tournament, which for the Lady Bears will begin at home, where they have won 55 in a row.

“Postseason, it’s here ... It’s time to bring it,” said Griner, the 6-foot-8 two-time All-American and one of five Baylor seniors.

For the first time, the Big 12 women’s tournament will be played in a different town than the men. The men are in Kansas City and the women start tonight at the American Airlines Center in Dallas.

Texas (12-17, 5-13) and Kansas State (14-16, 5-13) play the opener, with the winner advancing to play Baylor. Kansas (17-12, 8-10) plays league newcomer TCU (9-20, 2-16) in the other game the opening night.

Even though the Big 12 has the nation’s highest RPI, five 20-win teams and a 91-22 record against teams from other leagues, Baylor is the conference’s only Top 25 team.

“I am very surprised about that,” Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale said. “The thing that doesn’t jump out at people is the fact that there’s never an easy game. ... I bet any coach you would talk to in our league would feel like a boxer in the 12th round, just staggering into the conference tournament like, ‘OK, let’s get this over with so we can breathe again.’ ... That’s what the other leagues don’t face.”

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