AMES – Playing against Baylor is about as much fun as getting your tonsils removed. The No. 1 ranked Bears proved that Wednesday night.
Not only is Baylor (17-1, 7-0) the defending national champs, it plays with a mean-streak. Behind their suffocating defense and all-world center Brittney Griner, the Bears topped Iowa State, 66-51.
"Obviously that’s the best team in the country and they played like it," Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly said.
Griner set the tone early. The senior’s steal and breakaway dunk – the 11th of her career – tied the score 6-6. Baylor never trailed again.
From there Griner did what she always does – dominate. She finished with 22 points, eight rebounds and six blocks.
The scary part? Griner felt she wasn’t at her best on Wednesday.
"The two most unique people I’ve been around is Brittney Griner as a basketball player and my wife," Fennelly said.
"She’s just an amazing player and has worked so hard on her game to be a tall kid that’s turned out to be a good basketball player."
Griner’s quickness around the hoop helped give Baylor the lead. Her bucket inside pushed the Bear’s ahead 15-6. Later, Griner showed great touch, lofting the ball over Anna Prins while drawing a foul for a 3-point play and 24-8 advantage.
As Griner got going, so did the Bears’ defense. After Hallie Christofferson’s 3-pointer to give Iowa State (13-4, 4-3) its only lead at 6-4, the Cyclones went the next 11 minutes and 28 seconds without a point.
“We are going to guard you,” Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said.
Baylor went on a decisive 17-0 spurt and Iowa State never fully recovered.
“They are a quick team,” Anna Prins said. “They make things chaotic at times.”
Credit the Cyclones for trying to claw back after halftime. A pair of Brynn Williamson 3-pointers cut the deficit to 40-26. Chelsea Poppens added a basket of her own to make it a 43-31 Baylor lead.
Griner extinguished any chance of an Iowa State comeback.
The 6-foot-8 all-American soared over the Cyclones for an offensive rebound and a 3-point play to push the Bears’ back in front by 15.
“We have a group of seniors on that floor that went 40-0 last year,” Mulkey said. “They have seen it all.”
“They are not going to get rattled.”
Prins continued to play well against Baylor during her career in the Cardinal and Gold. The senior scored a team-high 17 points for the Cyclones.
Williamson added 11 points – all after halftime – and Christofferson notched nine.
Bill Fennelly on potentially playing Baylor again this season
"I’d love to play them again. I really would. If you’re playing them again, it might be in the semi-finals of the conference tournament. It might be in the Big 12 championship game. Hell, it might be in the Final Four. I mean, why not?"
– The loss to Baylor snapped a 10-game win streak against Big 12 teams at Hilton Coliseum.
– Official attendance on Wednesday was 11,220.
– Freshman Maddy Baier did not suit up due to an ankle injury.
– Brittney Griner needs seven more blocks to break the NCAA record for her career. She needs just 18 more points to break the Big 12 scoring record.
– Iowa State finished 18-of-50 from the floor (36 percent) and made 6-of-22 3-pointers.
– Brynn Williamson has made a 3-pointer in 16 of 17 games this season.
Iowa State hits the road for a pair of Big 12 games, beginning with West Virginia on Saturday night. The Mountaineers (11-7, 3-4) are off to a tough start, but a number of their conference losses were nearly wins. After Tuesday night’s 77-73 overtime defeat to Texas Tech, West Virginia has now lost all four Big 12 games by five points or less.
Christal Caldwell (13.1) and Taylor Palmer (11.8) both average double figures in points for the Mountaineers. Defensively, West Virginia gives up 59.0 points per game.
“Our focus needs to be January,” Anna Prins said. “It’s almost over but we have two huge games to finish out January."
Tip is set for 6 p.m.