The Kansas State women’s basketball team had the top-ranked Baylor Bears right where the Wildcats wanted them Saturday night.
Then a big run by the Bears to end the first half changed all that, as Baylor took control of the game and never looked back, cruising to a 70-41 victory over the Wildcats at Bramlage Coliseum.
Brittney Griner and Destiny Williams combined for 16 points to power a 20-5 run, leaving the Wildcats in a 33-24 hole at halftime. The decisive run erased what was once a 19-13 lead for K-State with 8:26 to play in the opening half.
K-State briefly stopped the bleeding on a layup by Mariah White to cut into Baylor’s lead at 23-21. White then answered with a 3-pointer again to draw the Wildcats within one at 25-24 with 4:05 to play. But that was all K-State would get the rest of the half, as the Cats missed their final two shots of the half and turned the ball over twice in the last 4 minutes.
“The last 5 or 6 minutes of the first half, we changed our personality a little bit — and always credit to the defense — but we were not responding at the level I thought we had in our decision-making the first 13 or 14 minutes of that half,” K-State coach Deb Patterson said. “We had a lot of empty possessions, soft possessions, and almost insisted on one or two looks on the offensive end.”
Griner, who reached 2,000 career points Saturday, finished with a game-high 29 points on 12-of-16 shooting with nine rebounds, as Baylor won its nation-leading 23rd straight game and 12th straight over the Wildcats. The Bears also pushed their Big 12 record to 10-0.
“With Griner, I don’t know how you can guard her,” Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said. “I’m glad she’s on my team because I couldn’t tell you how to guard her.”
Neither could K-State, as Griner scored 11 of her team’s first 15 points and seemingly bailed the Bears out of deep shot clock situations all night with an easy put-in at the rim.
“It makes the game tough,” K-State forward Jalana Childs said. “I’m in front of her, but they just throw it up and it seems like you’re not doing anything. It seems like you could do something, but it makes it really hard and it frustrates you a lot — you just try to think of what you could do to stop this from happening.”
K-State (15-7, 6-4), which shot 26 percent from the field, had its two-game win streak snapped, as the Wildcats lost their third straight home game — in front of a sellout crowd of 12,528.
The funk the Wildcats ended the first half in carried over to the start the second, as the Bears kept their foot on the gas and delivered the knockout punch with a 24-5 surge that covered more than 10 minutes to take a 57-29 lead.
“You have to give credit to their defense,” said Childs, who finished with four points and two rebounds. “They sped us up and took us out of our game.”
K-State — led by 10 points from both White and Brittany Chambers — started the second half 2-for-15 from the field before White hit a 3-pointer with 8:29 remaining to make it 57-32.
“Early in the second half, when they got some quick, relatively easy baskets and put-backs, on the defensive end of the floor, we sort of dropped our shoulders and got soft on the offensive end,” Patterson said. “That’s probably the biggest disappointment for me today — I think we wasted 20 minutes of offensive opportunities.”
Baylor, which shot 56 percent from the field, led only twice in the first half — 2-0 and then again at 20-19. Everything between that belonged to K-State — due in large part to the Wildcats’ 13-9 early rebounding edge. The Wildcats allowed Griner her points early, but clamped down on everyone else and got to the majority of the loose balls.
K-State used the aggressiveness to take a 9-4 lead on a fast-break bucket from Tasha Dickey, beating Griner to the basket. Then after Griner scored three straight points at the other end on the second half of two free throws and a lay-in at the rim, Chambers took over the Cats’ scoring — netting all 10 of her points for the night in a row.
The junior guard used a pair of 3-pointers to bookend the run, as Chambers helped the Wildcats to their biggest lead — and final lead — of the game at 19-13.
“We had good ball movement, distribution, spacing and had a really good feel for one another,” Patterson said. “I think players were real accountable for what it was we were trying to execute on the offensive end. I was just extremely pleased with our first 13 minutes of the game. There are a lot of positives we brought to the floor in those minutes.”
K-State returns to action Wednesday when the Wildcats travel to College Station, Texas to play No. 18 Texas A&M at 7 p.m. The Wildcats, who defeated the Aggies 71-69 in overtime earlier in the season, won’t return home again until Feb. 12 when they host rival Kansas at noon.
Saturday night’s game was the ninth sellout for a K-State women’s game at Bramlage Coliseum. The 12,528 in attendance mark the 15th-most for a women’s game in school history. It was also the first home sellout for the women since the WNIT championship game in 2006.
The game was part of the national “Pack the House” initiative, in which tickets were sold for just $1.
However, Baylor coach Kim Mulkey thought Bramlage should be packed every night.
“I want you to take this the right way, because we love big crowds, but Deb has a top-25 team out there — they’re in and out of it,” she said. “You shouldn’t have to sell one-dollar tickets to get them in the arena, not when you have the number one team and whatever they are — because I have that much respect for her program.
“They should be paying dollars to get in here and watch her team play… I thank all the fans for coming out, but they don’t just need to be here tonight. They need to be supporting their team every night.”