Brittney Griner

Junior forward Nneka Enemkpali has been the Longhorns' go-to player this season, averaginga team-high 13.1 points and 9.2 rebounds per game. 

Photo Credit: Shweta Gulati | Daily Texan Staff

Entering the round-robin series against Baylor last year, head coach Karen Aston knew hopes were lost. At 9-12, 2-8 Big 12, Aston’s squad held no chance against then-No. 1 Baylor (21-1, 11-0 Big 12) and Aston knew Baylor was “dominating on the defensive end.” The Bears soon swept Texas 75-48 and 67-47.

But Aston and Texas left their growing pains in the 2012-2013 season, entering this year with a plan to “own it,” play with heart and pursue their biggest conference threat: No. 9 Baylor.

“Nobody has beaten Baylor yet, so I think we’re still chasing them until someone beats them,” Aston said in an Oct. 16 season preview. “The league went through some hard times last year, and, obviously, Baylor was head and shoulders above everyone.”   

Much has changed since last season: Brittney Griner graduated, the Bears remember what a loss feels like, and Texas has remembered in recent games what it takes to win. The No. 7 Bears (13-3, 7-1 Big 12) still top the conference, but Texas no longer cushions the bottom.

Here are three keys for Texas to pull off an upset against Baylor:

 

1) Pass to Chassidy Fussell and Brady Sanders behind the arc.

Against Kansas on Tuesday night, the duo combined for seven 3-pointers on 80 and 75 percent shooting from behind the arc, respectively. Maximizing this hot streak with Nneka Enemkpali’s penetration will make the Longhorns much more difficult to defend.  

 

2) Send Nneka Enemkpali to crash the boards.

Enemkpali, a junior forward, is averaging 13.1 points and 9.2 rebounds. The Kansas game brought her sixth double-double of the season, and last week’s 15 points and 21 rebounds against No. 18 West Virginia earned her Big 12 Player of the Week this week. 

 

3) Control senior guard Odyssey Sims.

Without Griner, Sims controls the Bears’ offense. Sims is averaging 29.5 points and 4.6 rebounds through Big 12 play this season. When Sims is on, she pulls off overtime miracles such as the three-point play in the last four seconds of overtime against No. 8 Oklahoma State. But when she’s off — like she was in the 76-60 loss to Kansas — Baylor struggles as a whole. Restricting Sims to four of 19 in the second half after allowing her 20 points before halftime, Kansas pulled away. Coming off their first conference road game in the very gym that dealt the Bears their first conference loss should motivate the Longhorns.  

“[Sims] is the best point guard in the country,” Aston said after last year’s game. “It’s her ability to take over on both ends — she dominates on the defensive end.”

Texas has shown it’s capable of contending with conference foes and ranked opponents, such as Baylor. Now is the Longhorns’ chance to prove they’ve eliminated senseless errors and overcome their road struggles.

Brittney Griner and the Bears proved too tough for the Longhorns once again as they took another conference win away from a struggling Texas team over the weekend.  

Texas traveled to Waco for a Saturday afternoon game, falling to Baylor, 67-47. Griner led her team with 30 points, outscoring Texas herself in the first half. 

The Longhorns (10-16, 3-12) brought their deficit to 19-14 late in the first half before Kimetria Hayden hit a three-pointer to get an 11-2 run started for Baylor (26-1, 15-0). The game remained there as Texas went into the break down 30-16. 

The Longhorns, who sit in the basement of the Big 12 standings, had a lot of trouble getting their shots to drop as they were shooting just 21.4 percent from the floor in the first half. 

The second half didn’t bring any improvements. Texas stayed within the halftime deficit for most of the half until a 9-0 run by the Bears brought their lead to 61-39.

Chassidy Fussell led the Longhorns with 16 points but went just 7-for-20 from the floor. She also tallied six of her team’s 23 turnovers, which continue to plague the young team. Baylor also gave Texas trouble in the turnover battle their last time out, when the Longhorns coughed it up 25 times.

“A lot of it had to do with how they put pressure on the basketball,” head coach Karen Aston said. “They do a tremendous job of denying the passing lanes. They don’t allow ball reversal because they can because of Griner’s presence in the paint. It just creates bad decision-making.”

The game consisted of a lot of celebration as Griner was honored before the game for becoming the eighth Division 1 woman with 3,000 career points in Baylor’s win at No. 3 Connecticut on Monday. She also became the first player with 700 career blocks, recording at least one in 76 straight games.

Published on February 25, 2013 as "Bears prove too strong for Horns once again". 

Freshman Imani McGee-Stafford attempts a shot against Baylor’s Brittney Griner as Texas fell 75-48 to the nation’s top-ranked team and defending national champions. 

Photo Credit: Marisa Vasquez | Daily Texan Staff

The Longhorns had high hopes of taking down top-ranked Baylor on Saturday night but saw an all too familiar scene play out as they fell once again in Big 12 play.

Texas (9-13, 2-9 Big 12) kept it close through the first half but was unable to keep the game from getting out of hand as No. 1 Baylor (22-1, 12-0 Big 12) took a dominating 75-48 win at the Frank Erwin Center.

The freshman duo of Imani McGee-Stafford and Empress Davenport led the Longhorns with 13 points apiece. McGee-Stafford also tallied a career-high 18 rebounds while matched up against the All-American Brittney Griner.

“It’s a typical Baylor performance where they are dominating on the defensive end, in my opinion,” head coach Karen Aston said. “I am really proud of our team’s effort. I’m proud that these two freshmen showed that they are willing to compete in this league.”

Before settling down, the Longhorns got out to a 5-0 lead to start the game. They were able to control the 6-foot-8-inch Griner as they threw everything they had at the star. She was held to two points and no rebounds in just nine minutes of play in the first half.

McGee-Stafford did her job in stopping the former AP National Player of the Year.

“I thought [Stafford’s play] was really good,” Aston said. “I’m proud of her effort. I thought she was tremendous on the boards. I thought she competed on every possession. But what I hope she learns is that the position that Brittney gets herself in on offense is where I want Imani to get.”

The Los Angeles native took the game to use Griner as a foresight to where she can be in the future.

“I think the most important thing I can say is that this was a learning experience,” McGee-Stafford said. “Brittney Griner for me is like a human measuring stick. I get to see how far I have progressed from now. Being 6-foot-7, I got compared to her a lot in high school. I was just excited to play her and see how far I can progress.”

Other than that there wasn’t much comparing of the two teams on the court. With 15:05 to go in the game, Griner took an inbound pass, dribbled a few steps into a two-handed dunk, ending all momentum Texas had.

“It gave us some energy,” Griner said. “It got us pumped up and helped us keep making a run. It energized us.”

The Longhorns once again lost the turnover battle, committing 15 in the first half and 25 on the night. Baylor put pressure on the ball and denied all passing lanes for Texas, causing bad decision-making.

Despite this, Aston was happy with how her team, aiming to pull off a major upset, prepared for this game. While it didn’t work out as she hoped for the young squad, Aston wants this attitude to continue in the future.

“More than anything, and what I told them in the locker room is, I would love to see our team prepare and compete on a daily basis the way that we did for this game,” Aston said. “I think if we would begin to understand that’s the preparation it takes every single day in the Big 12, then we will begin to get somewhere.”

Published on February 11, 2013 as "Longhorns can't upset No.1 Baylor". 

Nneka Enemkpali (3) attemps to score but is blocked by Baylor player Brittney Griner (42).

Photo Credit: Marisa Vasquez | Daily Texan Staff

Brittney Griner and Odyssesy Sims sparked a second-half 34-14 Baylor run to push the Bears to a 75-48 win over Texas.

The Longhorns (9-13, 2-9 Big 12), who have struggled in conference play this season, gave up a big two-handed dunk by Griner, which opened the game up giving the Bears (22-1, 12-0 Big 12) the eventual win. Other than that Griner had an average game with 14 points and three rebounds.

Texas was led by the freshman duo of Imani McGee-Stafford and Empress Davenport, who both tallied 13 points on the night. McGee-Stafford stood tall against the All-American Griner, with a career-high 18 rebounds.

“I use [Griner] as a sort of measuring stick. I was obviously compared to her a lot in high school,” McGee-Stafford said. “I statistically outrebounded her [in tonight’s game]. I can’t say I am satisfied because we lost but I wasn’t the freshman tonight. I can say that.”

Texas kept the game close for the most part in the first half as they threw everything they had at Griner, double-teaming, sometimes triple-teaming her. The Longhorns even caused the 6-foot-8 star to play just nine minutes in the first half after she failed to produce. Baylor only had a 34-25 lead at halftime.

The second half was a different story, however. Up by just nine, Griner took an inbound pass and went up for the dunk, stopping all momentum Texas had.

Even with the inspired performance from Stafford and Davneport, the Longhorns were outscored 41-23 in the second half and fell to the defending national champions by 28 points.

“Typical Baylor performance where they are just dominating on the defensive end,” head coach Karen Aston said. “More than anything I would love to see our team prepare and compete on a daily basis the way we did for this evenings game.”

Baylor coach Kim Mulkey, as well as men’s coach Scott Drew were reprimanded by the NCAA for a number of phone calls and text messages that were deemed violations. The NCAA has put the Bears on three years probation and will limit scholarships in coming years as well as recruiting visits.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

WACO, Texas— The NCAA put Baylor on three years of probation Wednesday after an investigation turned up hundreds of impermissible telephone calls and text messages sent to prep recruits by coaches and assistants on the basketball teams.

The violations were considered to be major infractions, and they were announced less than a week after the Lady Bears won the national championship with the first 40-0 season in NCAA history.

Still, it could have been much worse for Baylor. All of the penalties were proposed by the school and accepted by the NCAA after a review of nearly 900,000 phone and text message records found that 738 texts and 528 calls were against the rules.

The NCAA said men’s coach Scott Drew failed to monitor his program and will be suspended for two Big 12 games next season, in addition to recruiting restrictions. Women’s coach Kim Mulkey also received recruiting restrictions.

“I believe strongly in following NCAA rules and will always try to do so in the future,” Mulkey said in a statement released by the school. “I do nothing without permission from our compliance office and will continue to ask questions to assure that things are done right. Any compliance-related mistakes, even those that are secondary, are disappointing. The majority of mistakes in this matter were errors in sending text messages and failure to accurately document our phone calls.”

The report put a bit of a damper on what has been an extraordinary run of success for Baylor athletics.

Besides Baylor’s win over Notre Dame for the women’s title, Drew’s team won a school-record 30 games and reached the NCAA regional finals, where the Bears lost to eventual national champion Kentucky. And all that came after star quarterback Robert Griffin III became the school’s first Heisman Trophy winner following a football season that included 10 wins for the first time since 1980.

Mulkey was named the AP’s national coach of the year and junior Brittney Griner was its player of the year. How Baylor recruited Griner, one of the most dominant women’s players in college basketball history, was reportedly part of the NCAA probe.

A school report obtained by ESPN.com said Mulkey and her staff committed minor NCAA violations for having impermissible contact with Griner and her family. During a 2007 camp, coaches spoke with the Griners about the basketball program, academic requirements and the school in general both before and after the camp.

Mulkey also reportedly broke NCA rules when she sat next to Griner’s father and discussed what the Baylor experience would be like. Brittney Griner, who is from the Houston area, played on the same AAU team as Mulkey’s daughter, Makenzie Robertson.

The NCAA report did not mention Griner or her family by name, though Mulkey addressed it in her statement.

“The other matters were related to my daughter’s participation in summer basketball,” she said. “While I am and will always be a mother first, I do recognize that there has to be a balance between my role as a mother of a prospect and my role as a head coach. I have always tried to strike that balance and appreciate the opportunity to demonstrate to the NCAA staff such balancing efforts dating back to when Makenzie was in the seventh grade. I am pleased that my efforts to find the appropriate balance between a mother and a coach were recognized.”

Griner said she had “made it clear to the NCAA staff and everyone else” that she had chosen Baylor early in the recruiting process.

Besides keeping Mulkey off the recruiting trail in July, Baylor said one of her assistants has been barred from making recruiting calls from January through April. The school also reduced its women’s basketball scholarships from 15 to 13 in 2011-12.

On the men’s side, Drew will miss the first two Big 12 games of the season, recruiting visits were trimmed and he lost a scholarship this past season and in 2012-13. In addition, a former coach faces a one-year “show cause” order that effectively prevents him from coaching at an NCAA school.

The assistant wasn’t identified, but FOXSports.com reported in October 2010 that the NCAA was investigating the recruitment of Hanner Perea. The report said assistant Mark Morefield sent dozens of texts to Perea’s AAU and high school coaches and urged two of them to provide false and misleading information to the NCAA about a series of text messages. Morefield resigned in July 2011.

“I sincerely apologize to Baylor University and Baylor Nation,” Morefield said in statement released by his lawyer. “I learned a very valuable lesson in this case. In my 13 years of coaching at NCAA institutions, I have not intentionally violated NCAA rules. I will grow from this experience with a better understanding of NCAA rules.”

The NCAA violations come nine years after Baylor basketball player Patrick Dennehy was found shot to death after he had been missing for six weeks. Teammate Carlton Dotson pleaded guilty to murder. The ensuing investigation uncovered NCAA violations, illegal tuition payments and unreported failed drug tests that led to the resignation of coach Dave Bliss, who was secretly recorded by an assistant coach of trying to persuade others to cover up misdeeds by portraying Dennehy as a drug dealer.

Athletic director Ian McCaw said the school has made “significant investments in compliance staffing and infrastructure” since the investigation began.

Drew said he took full responsibility for the violations, saying many were simply the result of improperly logging or failing to log calls to recruits. He noted that the school has a new software tracking system to assist coaches with the logistics.

“I came to Baylor in 2003 to do a job: rebuild a program decimated by very serious NCAA rules violations and tragedy,” he said. “I promised to rebuild the program in a way Baylor could be proud-morally, academically and, finally, athletically, and we continue on that journey today.”
 

Junior forward Brittney Griner and the Baylor Bears made history Tuesday evening, becoming the 10th team in NCAA women’s history to finish with a perfect record.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

Forty up, 40 down. No team could touch the Bears this year.

Baylor earned its second women’s basketball title with a decisive win over an overmatched Notre Dame team that fell just short of the title for the second year in a row.

The Bears became the first team to reach 40 wins in a season, and their undefeated record of 40-0 gives them the 10th undefeated season in women’s history. This team hasn’t quite reached the amazing level of Connecticut from 2009-2010 when it won 90 straight games, including two national championships, but they’re not done yet either.

Post Brittney Griner was her usual self, recording 26 points and 13 rebounds as well as five blocks.

Notre Dame’s semi-famous point guard Skylar Diggins dropped 20 points but didn’t shoot all that well. The rest of her team didn’t either, going just 36 percent from the field. It was clear that Griner and the Bears were on a mission and that they would not be denied a perfect season.

Baylor held a 21 rebound advantage over the Irish in the end, and shot 50 percent on the night. The dominant performance was a fitting end to a season where the Bears were rarely challenged.

Head coach Kim Mulkey knew what she was doing when she recruited Griner to play at Baylor, but even Mulkey has to be surprised at just how well Griner has played thus far in college. Mulkey has laid a solid foundation in Waco, and her coaching tree just supplied Texas with its new coach, Karen Aston.

With Griner set to enter her senior year, and key players like Odyssey Sims and Destiny Williams coming back as well, the Bears are looking to be in contention for another run at a perfect season. The Bears will be an experienced bunch and will have plenty of tournament time under their belts. This is Mulkey’s second title at Baylor, and there’s no sign of her stopping any time soon.

Sure the Bears are enjoying having Griner on the team now, but her presence will also be felt long after she leaves Waco. Players like Griner come along once in a lifetime, and high school girls who are really good at basketball are going to want to identify with her for a long time.

Griner, Robert Griffin III and a resurgent men’s basketball program have helped to put Baylor on the map in the sports world. It has yet to be seen what will come of the football program with RG3 leaving for the NFL, but it seems as if the basketball programs are going to be sticking around for awhile.

Printed on Wednesday, April 4, 2012 as: Griner, company finish perfect 40-0

Junior Brittney Griner fights through the Georgia Tech defense during Baylor’s 83-68 Sweet Sixteen victory. The AP Player of the Year is averaging 23.4 points, 9.4 rebounds, and 5.2 blocks per game this season.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

Only two teams in women’s college basketball history have made it to the national championship game in back-to-back seasons and lost.

Tonight, Notre Dame could become the third team to suffer a similar fate when it faces undefeated Baylor.

Tennessee did it first in the 1980 and 1981 seasons, and most recently Auburn reached the national championship three straight years in 1988-1990 and lost each time. Sure it’s elite company, but it’s not exactly what a program wants to be remembered for.

After losing to Texas A&M in last year’s national final, the Irish are hoping to reverse the curse.

Touting a perfect 39-0 record, Baylor hasn’t had much trouble reaching the pinnacle of college basketball this year. Led by all-everything center Brittney Griner, the Bears have enjoyed success with relative ease over most of their opponents, including the Fighting Irish.

The Bears and Irish faced each other once this season back in November — the Bears emerged with a 94-81 win. In that game Griner had 32 points and 14 rebounds, but you can expect the Irish to focus more defensive attention on Griner this time around.

The Irish are a much different team than the Bears in more than one way. Whereas Baylor runs most of its sets through the hands of point guard Odyssey Sims, and in turn Griner, Notre Dame uses a more balanced attack that involves more guard play.

A lot of guard play, actually.

Notre Dame’s two forwards, Devereaux Peters and Natalie Achonwa, only account for a fourth of the team’s season average of 79.3 points. That means players like point guard Skylar Diggins and Natalie Novosel are looked to when the team needs a basket, or a defensive stop.

The Irish guards are very active on defense and have accumulated nearly 500 steals leading up to tonight’s game. Like many other smaller, defensive-minded teams, Notre Dame feeds off its defensive intensity and looks to run whenever the opportunity arises. The Irish don’t have the luxury of a player like Griner, so they need to play within their means and hope their shots fall at a higher rate than the Bears if they are to stop the Bears’ undefeated season.

Given the difference in styles of play between the two teams, with Baylor favoring a more post-oriented, grinding style of play and Notre Dame playing a tight, guard-heavy motion offense this game could go a couple of different ways.

Griner always has the potential to go absolutely bananas and score 40 points and grab every loose rebound in sight, effectively making the lane the “Griner Zone,” rather than a common area for all players to share, in the same breath the Irish are very capable of shutting her down.

Being the national championship game, the Irish will likely be a bit more inspired than they were in their first game against the Bears. If the Irish can frustrate Griner on the block with double teams and throw a few quick, bothersome guards at her in hopes of forcing turnovers, they may stand a chance to win this game. Diggins and her crew will have to be at the top of their game, and if the Irish guards can catch fire from the field they can keep the game close.

In the end, Griner and the experience of Baylor may prove to be too much for the Irish. If Griner can establish herself in the lane it could be a long night for the Irish and they’ll join Tennessee and Auburn as the only teams to go so far yet unable to close out the final game in consecutive seasons.

Printed on Tuesday, April 3, 2012 as: One victory from 40-0, Baylor eyes national title

Brittney Griner goes up for a rebound in a 80-59 thrashing of the Longhorns. Griner, the country’s best center, had another huge game recording 18 points and 10 rebounds in her 100th career game.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

In need of a signature win to boost their tournament resume, the Longhorns came out flat and found themselves on the wrong end of a milestone performance from Brittney Griner and the No. 1 Baylor Bears (28-0, 15-0 Big 12) on Tuesday night.

The Lady Bears held Texas (15-12, 5-10 Big 12) to a miserable 34 percent shooting, while outscoring the Longhorns 40-26 in the paint, en route to an 80-59 romp at the Ferrell Center in Waco. Griner, playing in her 100th game as a Lady Bear, had 18 points and 10 rebounds to earn her 40th career double-double as Baylor claimed the outright Big 12 regular season title with the victory.

“Baylor proved once again why they’re the No. 1-ranked team in the country,” said head coach Gail Goestenkors. “We did some things defensively that bothered them initially, but they did what they always do and they adjusted and went on a run. They found a way, and that’s what great teams do.”

Griner, who was recognized in a pre-game ceremony after becoming the fourth Lady Bear to reach the 2000 career point threshold, opened the scoring with a layup at 19:31 in the first half and the Lady Bears held onto the lead the rest of the way.

The 6’8” junior made her presence felt on the defensive end all night, blocking four shots while altering several others.

“[Griner] definitely makes you want to shoot more outside shots,” said senior Texas guard Yvonne Anderson. “As a guard, she intimidates you to the point where you want to shoot outside. Our posts don’t really look to score versus her. It’s just an intimidation factor.”

Texas’ starting post combination of Anne Marie Hartung and Ashley Gayle failed to record a point, missing all six of their field goals, and pulled down a measly nine total rebounds. The other two bigs for the Longhorns, Cokie Reed and Nneka Enemkpali combined to score just five points off the bench.

With Griner causing so many problems inside, Texas’ guards were forced to take a lot of outside shots and struggled to find their stroke.

Senior guard Ashleigh Fontenette had 10 points on 4-16 shooting for the Longhorns. Chassidy Fussell also failed to get it going, shooting a mere 5-21 from the field and just 3-10 from behind the arc.

“They play excellent team defense,” Goestenkors said. “Brittney [Griner] gets a lot of credit for blocking and changing shots inside, but it’s their perimeter defense that sets the tone.”

Defensively, Texas struggled to rebound the ball. The Lady Bears used the mismatch in size and strength to their advantage on the offensive glass, tallying 21 second-chance points on 19 offensive rebounds.

“Even when their shots weren’t falling early, they found a way to get the offensive rebounds,” Goestenkors said. “We weren’t finishing the shot with a rebound.”

The Longhorns now have their work cut out for them if they hope to make the “Big Dance.” Texas is going to have to win each of its last three games against Oklahoma, Missouri and Texas A&M, and have a couple bubble teams lose, to have any chance at being in this year’s NCAA tournament field.

“We have to let this one go and get ready for Oklahoma,” Anderson said. “There’s nothing we can change now. We can just learn from the little things that we haven’t been doing the whole season and commit to doing them against Oklahoma.”

Printed on Wednesday, February 22, 2012 as: Longhorns squashed by top ranked Lady Bears

Sophomore Cokie Reed, backing down a Texas Tech defender, was injured when Texas lost to No. 1 Baylor, 77-59, earlier this season.

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

As the Longhorns’ conference schedule begins to wind down, they once again find themselves in need of a signature win to enhance their odds of making the NCAA Tournament.

A win over consensus No. 1 Baylor tonight in Waco could do wonders for Texas’ NCAA Tournament hopes. The Bears are riding a 27-game winning streak, which would be a 38-game streak had the Bears not lost to Texas A&M in last year’s National Championship game.

“If you are going to compete against a great team like Baylor, you have to have everyone show up and play,” said Texas head coach Gail Goestenkors. “You have to be energized, be focused and be confident.”

Baylor already had its way with Texas after a dominant 77-59 victory over the Longhorns in Austin on Jan. 15. Brittney Griner continued her barrage on NCAA record books with a 32-point, 13-rebound performance to lead all scorers. The Bears opened the game on a 19-0 run, scored 58 points in the paint and held the Longhorns to just 33 percent shooting, stifling any upset bid the Longhorns had in mind.

Adding insult to injury (literally) was the absence of sophomore post Cokie Reed. She was unable to play in the first meeting with Baylor due to a strained right leg suffered in practice leading up to the game.

“The absence of Cokie was a big loss for us,” Goestenkors said. “All of the bodies you can get against Brittney [Griner] are helpful.”

Griner, the Bears’ leading scorer at 22.9 points per game, will be the focus of the Longhorns’ defense. She was very active on the offensive glass in the first game against the Longhorns this year, grabbing seven offensive rebounds, which led to 18 second chance points. Griner also displayed her shot-blocking prowess, swatting three Longhorn shots. Griner’s innate feel for the game and elite size allow her to score with ease, and she is very difficult for teams to stop.

“I think you have to recognize that Griner is a 6-foot-9 post player,” said senior guard Yvonne Anderson. “There is not much you can do with that. You just have to make sure that she does not get more than her usual, and you have to contain everyone else.”

Reed’s return, as well as the recent play of fellow post Anne Marie Hartung, have the Longhorns hoping things will go a little differently this time around.

“[Cokie] is really good offensive player,” said senior post Ashley Gayle. “[She] is taller and has a height advantage over a lot of players. I think that we have a lot of depth in the post position now, and we have more tools to attack with.”

Women's Basketball Notebook

Photo Credit: Peter Franklin | Daily Texan Staff

The Baylor Bears (24-0, 11-0 Big 12) are having the best year in school history and are showing no signs of slowing down as they cruise through their conference schedule.

The Bears, whose perfect record leaves them and Green Bay as the only undefeated teams left in the country, appear unstoppable at this point. They have won each of their last six games by at least 27 points and lead the Big 12 in 13 of the 21 team statistics.

Baylor’s incredible success has been no surprise to Missouri head coach Robin Pingeton.

“They have a roster full of McDonald’s All-Americans,” Pingeton said. “They have a high basketball IQ and great athleticism. They have explosiveness and quickness. They can guard on the perimeter and they can score a variety of ways.”

The Bears have already defeated each of the seven teams left on their schedule and, barring a couple huge upsets, should have no trouble holding on to their No. 1 ranking as the season comes to a close.

Griner still conference Player of the Year Favorite

Brittney Griner, who was named preseason Big 12 Player of the Year for the second consecutive year at the start of the season, appears to be a lock to win the award come March.

The Baylor post has had her way with opposing defenses this year, averaging a conference-leading 23 points a game while shooting 63 percent from the field. Her 128 blocks lead the nation and her average of 9.7 rebounds a game makes her and Iowa State post Chelsea Poppens the only two Big 12 players averaging a double-double.

“(Brittney) Griner has gotten better every year,” said Oklahoma head coach Sherri Coale after her team’s loss to the Bears on Monday night. “That summer that she spent with USA Basketball is obviously paying off. She is a much more mature player, has so much more depth to her and so many more things she can do.”

Griner became the first player in NCAA Division 1 women’s basketball history to score 2000 points and record 500 blocks over the course of their career in a win over Kansas State on Saturday afternoon.

Big 12 continues to be best conference in the nation

We are now through more than three quarters of the regular season and deep into conference play, and the Big 12 is proving to be the toughest league in the country.

The conference leads the nation in both the Jeff Sagarin and College Basketball News’ RPI ratings. It is the only conference with each of its team’s strength of schedule in the top 80 and Big 12 teams lead the nation with a .868 winning percentage against nonconference opponents. One nonconference game remains as Connecticut travels to Oklahoma on Feb. 12.

With the exception of undefeated Baylor on top and winless Missouri at the bottom of the standings, competition within the conference has been incredibly close all year. More than half the games in conference play have been decided by single digits, and 14 have been won by a margin of five or less.

“The Big 12 is such a war and we’re so evenly balanced throughout the conference,” said Texas head coach Gail Goestenkors. “Many of the games are going to come down to the wire. There are going to be a lot of games that are going to be decided by six points or less. If the teams that can execute down the stretch hit their free throws and make the big plays, they’re going to win the big games.”

Printed on Wednesday, February 8, 2012 as: Baylor still undefeated, dominating in Big 12