Baylor took the first punch and then the second from UConn. They might have stumbled a bit in the first half, but they were never knocked down. But it took a flagrant foul from Brittney Griner to really get the Bears going. Trailing 41-34 after the two free throws by Stefanie Dolson, the Bears would go on an 8-0 to take their first lead of the game.
With Griner and Odyssey Sims struggling in the first half with their shot, the Huskies rolled out to a 9 point lead. A combined 3-19 in the first half from their two All-Americans, the Bears relied on their defense to keep the game close, forcing 10 turnovers to trim the lead to just 3 points at the intermission.
After the break though, you could start to see the adjustments from both sides as the offense started flowing for both teams. After a combined 55 points in the first half, the Bears themselves put up 50 points in the second half by shooting 61% from the field. They moved the ball much better, and stopped trying to take on the Huskies individually.
With UConn doubling and even triple teaming Griner, the other Baylor players cut around her and into the open spaces on the wings and under the basket. With her height, Griner found someone to get the ball too who could find the open player. While she only recorded 4 assists officially, her passing changed the spacing on the floor and allowed the Baylor offense to get into rhythm. It was a “hockey-assist” kind of night for her where she made the pass that led to the assist.
Another adjustment the Bears made was going to Brooklyn Pope more in the second half. Destiny Williams got a rare start this year, with the idea to add more shooters around Griner to attack the Husky zone defense. But Destiny struggled in the first half with her positioning on the floor, as the spacing was poor at times.
While Pope is not the shooter that Destiny Williams is, she was excellent without the ball by getting behind the defense and presenting herself for easy shots. She made 9-16 shots and finished with 18 points and 9 rebounds. She also added the game-sealing steal off of a pass back out to the perimeter that she took the other way for a layup to go up 75-67.
The Huskies were led by Sophomore Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, who made 11 of her 14 shots and grabbed a game high 15 points. With the Bears extending their lead in the middle of the second half, Mosqueda-Lewis carried the Huskies offense scoring 11 of 14 points in an 8 minute stretch.
But the star of the game was Brittney Griner, who got the 25 points she needed to reach 3,000 points in her career, the 8th women’s player to reach that milestone. She also added 9 rebounds, 4 assists, along with the countless tip-outs off of shots. With the Bears coming home Big 12 champions, the first check-mark of the year has been done. Now it is time to get everything ready and lined up for the next challenge; a second National Championship in a row.