Hot start and defense key to Baylor’s throttling of Tennessee


No. 3 Baylor (9-1) began its 76-53 rout of No. 10 Tennessee (7-2) on a 17-0 run with 6-8 center Brittney Griner scoring the first six points during the offensive spurt.

“I thought we came out on fire,” said Griner. “Any time we play Tennessee it’s a high-intensity game. Everybody was pumped up, and so was I.”

Griner who rested for the last four minutes of the game finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds.

Baylor entered the game well rested. Their previous game was a 94-56 rout of Oral Roberts last Wednesday. At the half they led by 25, 41-16, giving Tennessee its largest halftime deficit in Lady Vol history. The previous largest margin was 20 against Rutgers in 2009. In that game the Lady Vols rallied from down 33-13 to win 55-51 on the road. In Waco their bad fortunes lingered for the rest of the game.

“I just thought that we were ready to play,” said Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey. “We haven’t played since Oral Roberts, and it was just like they were ready to go. I thought that our defensive intensity was pretty special there at the beginning. Everybody fed off of each other when the game started.”

Mulkey credits her team’s defense with much their immense success in the game.

“I thought we got some transition looks and shared the ball well. Again, I thought that it started on the defensive end,” she said. “They missed a lot of shots, but I tend to want to think that we were contesting them. Offensive rebounding was very important in our scouting report. It was good to see Brooklyn (Pope) have a career high in rebounding and Brittney rebounding the ball. Tennessee shoots a lot of shots. We knew that. If you look at their style, they come down the court and they don’t take a bad shot. We understood that and made sure that we were back in transition for defense. Any shot they made, we made sure to contest it.”

Tennessee coach Holly Warlick agree with Mulkey.

“We went up against a good Baylor team and didn’t come ready to play in the first half. That had a lot to do with Baylor’s defense,” said Warlick. “I thought we did a good job in the second half, but you can’t spot a team 20 points and expect to win.”

The 9,249 fans who attended the game had no reason not to expect a more competitive matchup. The Lady Vols came into the contest on a seven-game win streak after defeating ranked Texas in Austin. Four of its wins were against Top 25 teams. The squad, in its first season under new coach Warlick, lost their first game of the season on the road at Tennessee-Chattanooga.

Warlick was unhappy with her team’s lack of patience on offense.

“It was frustrating because we almost always shoot the ball well. I think we had open looks, but they were always rushed,” said Warlick. “We were quick-shooting the basketball and our game plan was not to quick-shoot the basketball. We were trying to make everything up in one possession.”

While her team struggled she was impressed with every Baylor player on the floor.

“I think their whole team is athletic and aggressive,” she said. “There’s always a Griner effect. I think we had open looks, but we rushed shots and played one-on-one. You can’t play that way against Baylor. They’re too good of a defensive team. When we did get stops, we gave up offensive rebounds and those rebounds killed us.”

In addition to Griner’s double figures, Kimetria Hayden scored 16 points and dished out six assists, Jordan Madden had 12 points and Pope finished with 11 points and 16 rebounds.

For the Lady Vols Meighan Simmons scored 16 points and Kamiko Williams had 15. The Lady Vols played without 6-3 center Isabelle Harrison, who was sidelined with a sprained ankle.

Tennessee returns home for a game against No. 1 Stanford on Dec. 22. Baylor plays Southeastern Louisiana at home on Dec. 29.


Baylor coach Kim Mulkey

On the importance of each player:
“Like I’ve said before, you don’t take them for granted. I’m the only one that can be their critic. I know these kids inside and out. I never take them for granted. There is not a single day that goes by that I don’t wink at them, pat them on the back or do something to let them know that I appreciate them. When Odyssey (Sims) and Brittney came out those last six minutes of the game, I hugged them and realized that they are two of the best players that I have coached. It’s little moments like that.”

Baylor Senior Guard Kimetria Hayden

On the difference in her game tonight:
“I’ve been in the gym more shooting because I know that they are going to double team Brittney and we have to create open shots. I was patient tonight.”

On developing her shooting game:
“I just want to hit open jumpers so that I can open the lane up for drives, or dish the ball to our post players. I’ve just been in the gym hitting the shots and today, I was just lucky to hit them.”

Baylor Senior Forward Brooklyn Pope

On how well her senior year has been so far:
“I don’t do much other than focus on basketball because I graduated. Now I’m playing like I did in high school when I didn’t have as many worries. I have also bought into the system this year. Baylor wasn’t going to change, I will. It’s working for me now.”

On her rebounding tonight:
“Coach Mulkey told us that Tennessee is known for rebounding. This year is not going to change anything. Pat Summitt’s system is still there. They went to the offensive rebounding against Texas, and we made sure to stop that. If we got the offensive rebound, then we had a second chance to score.”

Tennessee Sophomore Cierra Burdick

On her late offensive start:
“We came in a little too antsy. We let our offense dictate the rest of our game and we can’t let that happen.”

On offense:
“I think there were clips where we got on a run, but every time we got on a run, they answered. You think you’re chipping away at the score and you look up at the scoreboard and you’re down 25. It plays with your mind and your confidence.”

Tennessee Senior Kamiko Williams

On coach Holly Warlick’s statement, “The only thing that can hold her back is herself”:
“I believe it. My teammates know it. I know it. It has been a problem, but I’m trying to fix it. Hopefully I can build off these two games and be there for my team like I need to be.”

On attacking Baylor:
“My teammates and coaches were in my ear. Just having my teammates in my ear helped. They’re the reason I performed today.”

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