WACO, Texas -- Odyssey Sims made a perfect pass to Brittney Griner sprinting into the lane, the kind of connection No. 1 Baylor expects to see plenty of from their preseason All-Americans.
Sims was expecting a dunk, and Griner was thinking about it as the Lady Bears opened defense of their undefeated national championship with their 41st consecutive victory, 80-34 over Lamar on Friday.
"I was like, 'Oh yeah, I'm fixing to dunk this.' I sprinted down the court and my legs said no," Griner said. "So I got the two points. I mean I laid it up pretty."
The 6-foot-8 Griner settled for a nifty finger-roll layup, part of her 24 points in 18 minutes -- less than a full half on the court.
Griner finished 10-of-17 shooting for her 81st consecutive double-figure scoring game. She also had five rebounds and two blocked shots, increasing her Big 12 record to 601 and getting within 62 of the NCAA mark.
Sims had 11 points, eight assists, four rebounds and three steals with only one turnover in her 29 minutes.
Coach Kim Mulkey returns all five starters from Baylor's championship team, and four other letter winners. The Lady Bears also have a talented group of five freshmen, though touted guard Alexis Prince is sidelined with a stress reaction in her foot.
Three of Sims' assists were on baskets by Griner, including the near-dunk with 9 minutes left that made it 64-32.
"I don't know how it feels to be able to dunk. I know it takes a lot of energy out of you, so I wasn't disappointed," Sims said. "I just kind of laughed. We both smiled. Hopefully, she'll be able to dunk again soon."
Baylor charged out to a 10-point lead less than 4 minutes into the game, going up 13-3 on a 3-pointer by Sims.
Griner missed the first shot of her senior season, but Brooklyn Pope grabbed the rebound and put Baylor ahead to stay with her basket.
Pope had two early fouls, but finished with eight points on 4-of-5 shooting in her nine minutes.
Jordan Madden added 10 points for Baylor, which has also won 41 consecutive home games. That is second to Stanford's string of 79 victories in a row at home.
Kalis Loyd had 11 points to lead Lamar, which for the second year in a row opened its season on the road against the defending national champ. Loyd scored only one point after halftime, and the Cardinals had only nine the last 20 minutes.
"Well, I can look at the first half and then not look at the second half. And seriously, I'm not trying to be cute. We did some good things, we knocked some shots down," said coach Larry Tidwell, a Baylor assistant in the 1990s. "I used about a seven- to eight-person rotation, and I did that for a purpose, because we've got to get ready for our season."
Loyd had 20 points last November when the Lady Cardinals opened with an 83-58 loss at Texas A&M before going on to have their fifth consecutive winning season under Tidwell.
With much tougher games upcoming quickly, Mulkey used 12 different players, trying some different combinations and getting extra time on the court for the non-starters. Sims' 29 minutes were the most, and 10 players were on the court at least 10 minutes.
The Lady Bears will get stiffer challenges in their next two games -- Tuesday at home against No. 6 Kentucky, when they will raise that national championship banner, before playing fourth-ranked Stanford in Hawaii next Friday.
"Honestly, there's a lot of rust there," Mulkey said. "The effort was there, but there were a lot of mental mistakes, shot clock violations. ... My disappointment always comes with the older players. I thought there was some selfish basketball out there, bad shots taken and no ball reversal. Those aren't effort, those are a mental mindset and come Tuesday night they better erase what happened today."
Already with a 40-25 halftime lead, Griner had a layup and a short jumper as the Lady Bears opened the second half with a 10-0 run. In that 4-minute spurt, Lamar had four turnovers and missed its only three shots.
"Everybody contributed and the freshmen did good out there," Griner said. "Coach always stresses to us, just give your all, just give your all every time you're on the court, and I felt like everybody contributed."
Stephanie White, Lin Dunn and Carolyn Peck know what it takes to succeed in women's basketball. Their return to the college level should boost the SEC and is good for the game overall.
Mechelle Voepel explains what the biggest transition is for Breanna Stewart moving from UConn to the WNBA, as well as if she will be perceived around the league as a villain.
|Stephen F. Austin||12-6||5||18-12|
|Sam Houston State||7-11||10||14-18|