U women struggle early, lose to Baylor by 29

  • Article by: RACHEL BLOUNT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 5, 2011 - 6:38 AM

Lady Bears center Brittney Griner dominated inside play in a Big Ten/Big 12 Challenge game.

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Brittney Griner has been double- and triple-teamed so often that it barely bothers her anymore. The Baylor center has learned that when opponents close in on her, she has plenty of options -- and she's become patient enough to take advantage of them.

The 6-8 All-America still managed to dominate the Gophers in the paint Sunday, as the top-ranked Lady Bears trounced Minnesota 89-60 at Williams Arena. Griner scored 20 points, blocked five shots and grabbed nine rebounds, but she also got help from teammates who didn't attract multiple defenders. Point guard Odyssey Sims scored 15 points, and forward Brooklyn Pope scored nine in the second half.

Despite the score, Gophers coach Pam Borton found some things to like. After making only seven of 37 shots in the first half, Minnesota (4-5) settled down in the second and was outscored by a mere two points. Freshman guard Rachel Banham took charge, scoring 15 of her 19 points on 6-for-10 shooting. The Gophers forced 16 turnovers and snagged 10 steals.

Going into the Big Ten/Big 12 Challenge game, Borton knew how tough it would be to limit Griner without creating opportunities for other players.

The Gophers didn't have any more success than the other seven teams Baylor has beaten, but she was pleased they didn't back down.

Griner "finishes extremely well, and she finds open shooters,'' Borton said. "She's got to rely on her teammates to knock down shots from the perimeter, and they did that.

"You have to constantly make adjustments. You plug a hole, and another one pops open. It was difficult, but it was a great experience for our players.''

Griner said she has worked in practice to become more patient and locate open teammates.

Baylor coach Kim Mulkey cited turnovers, too many misses on easy shots, and the Lady Bears' failure to extend their lead in the second half. She was more than happy with Griner, however.

"She is such an unselfish player,'' Mulkey said. "Everything we do runs through Griner, and she can make everyone look good. At the same time, we have pretty good players around her.''

In the first half, the Gophers made it tough on themselves. Borton was particularly annoyed by their poor play inside, as they missed 13 shots in the paint. Center Katie Loberg and forwards Jackie Voigt and Micaëlla Riché combined to score only five points Sunday.

The Gophers already trailed 9-0 when they scored their first point on a Leah Cotton free throw, after 5 minutes, 4 seconds had elapsed.

It took them another 35 seconds to make their first field goal, on their 13th attempt. After they pulled within 16-7, Baylor took off on an 11-0 run.

The Lady Bears closed the half on a similar tear to take a 48-21 lead. They outscored the Gophers 17-2 in the final 4:06, as Minnesota went nearly 4 1/2 minutes without a field goal.

Borton had a talk with Banham at halftime, urging her to be confident enough to carry her team.

With assistance from guards Kiara Buford and Cotton, Banham took on the challenge.

The three combined for 46 of their Gophers' 60 points, with 33 of those coming in the second half.

"If we had the same attack in the first half, we wouldn't have dug ourselves as big a hole,'' Borton said. "We can use this game as a measuring stick, as players and as a team, and continue getting better from here.''

  • BAYLOR 89, MINNESOTA 60

    Up next: 7 p.m. Wednesday vs. Air Force • Williams Arena • Radio 88.5-FM

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