Baylor 77, Oklahoma St. 69. With AP Photos.
By STEPHEN HAWKINS
AP Basketball Writer
DALLAS -- Toni Young and Oklahoma State never got intimidated by top-ranked Baylor.
Not even when Young was getting some early shots blocked by Brittney Griner, the Lady Bears' 6-foot-8 All-American, or the Cowgirls trailed by 17 points in the second half.
And they almost pulled off a shocker at the Big 12 tournament.
Oklahoma State was within three points in the final minute before the defending national champions finally closed out a 77-69 semifinal victory Sunday.
"We don't ever give up. ... We came in and competed with the No. 1 team in the nation," Young said. "Not that many people came close to them."
The Cowboys (21-10) put together a furious late rally by taking advantage of some uncharacteristic turnovers by Baylor -- 18 of the Lady Bears' season-high 24 miscues came after halftime.
Baylor (31-1) has won 48 consecutive Big 12 regular-season and tournament games -- most by a large margin. The Lady Bears will play in their third straight conference tournament title game Monday night after going through the last two regular seasons without a league loss.
Oklahoma State trailed by 17 after Baylor guard Odyssey Sims converted a nifty three-point play with 15 minutes left. But the Cowgirls cut it to 72-69 with 1:34 remaining when Tiffany Bias converted a steal into a breakaway layup.
"Very proud of our basketball team," Cowgirls coach Jim Littell said. "We went toe-to-toe with the No. 1 team in the nation. ... It's something that's a step in the right direction for our program. We can build off this."
The Cowgirls likely helped their seeding in the NCAA tournament with this performance.
Young had 22 points and 11 rebounds. Liz Donohoe added 20 points and Bias scored 19.
Griner had 30 points, 10 rebounds and seven blocks while Sims and Brooklyn Pope each scored 12 points for Baylor.
Destiny Williams added 10 points for the Lady Bears and Sims had seven assists.
With the shot clock running down early in the second half, Sims made a move and pushed the ball toward the rim. The ball went in as she was fouled, prompting Baylor coach Kim Mulkey to emphatically pump her arm to go with a leg kick.
The Lady Bears led 54-37 when Sims made the free throw.
Baylor still had a comfortable lead with 5 1/2 minutes left after Griner scored inside to make it 69-56. But the Lady Bears committed three turnovers in less than a minute to spark seven points in a row by the Cowgirls.
After Donohoe made a free throw, Kendra Suttles had a steal that led to a layup by Bias.
Griner then committed a turnover that led to a jumper by Brittney Martin. A turnover by Sims led to a pair of free throws by Young that cut it to 69-63.
Even after Griner converted a three-point play with 2:36 left to push the lead back to 72-63, Baylor had four more turnovers in a span of 1:01, including Bias' steal and layup.
But after a steal by Donohoe, the Cowgirls gave it right back, leading to Jordan Madden's 3-pointer with 38 seconds left.
"Probably had a bad possession when it was 72-69, a chance to tie it," Littell said. "I would have loved to have that opportunity to put a little more pressure on them. But our group played extremely hard."
Maybe this was just the kind of test Baylor needed heading into the NCAA tournament.
"We've been beating teams by 30-plus. We've been getting bored out there sometimes," Sims said. "Having a close game like this wakes us up, makes us realize that just because we're the No. 1 seed doesn't mean we can't be beat."
Baylor, which has won 29 in a row overall since a loss to Stanford during the first week of the season, had a 32-15 lead in the first 11 minutes before a 10-2 Cowgirls run.
Bias banked in a 3-pointer before Griner, surrounded by three defenders, scored inside. Bias then made a basket, drew a charge and made another 3-pointer. When Young scored over Griner, it was 34-25 with 6:35 left in the half.
Griner had 14 points, five rebounds and five blocked shots in that opening Baylor spurt. But Oklahoma State didn't allow her to keep up that dominating pace.
"Just playing together as a team. Our coaches had a really good (scouting report) for us," Bias said. "Just confusing them. I think it got to them when we were close to them throughout the whole game. I think by trading defenses, just sitting on Griner, trying to double her, I think that really confused them."