Britney Griner may be gone, but it still didn’t matter on Thursday night, as ninth-ranked Baylor eased past Kansas State, 92-63, at Bramlage Coliseum.
The Bears dominated the Wildcats in nearly every facet of the game — starting with a game-high 40 points from Odyssey Sims. Picking up its 17th straight win over K-State, Baylor shot 52 percent from the field, outrebounded the Wildcats by 12, won the battle in the paint and outscored K-State’s bench 19-2.
“I thought we had moments in this basketball game that showed the kind of basketball team that we could be, but those moments were brief in relation to the full 40 minutes,” said K-State coach Deb Patterson, who’s last win over the Bears came during the 2003-04 season. “We have got to keep building on those positive and good moments and eliminate those mistake-filled and soft moments, particularly on the defensive end.”
Though trailing from the start, the Wildcats (6-6, 0-1 Big 12) did make their runs at the Bears, but were unable to close the deal in what was the conference opener for both teams. Sims had a lot to do with that, squashing nearly every run on her own. Whether it was splitting the defense for quick off-dribble layups, her four 3-pointers or her ability to get to the line whenever she wanted, the Bears’ talented senior did it all.
Sims finished 12 of 19 from the field, including 4 for 4 from behind the arc and 12 of 16 at the foul line.
“There is no question you want the ball in her hands,” Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said of Sims. “When people make a run, you make sure the right people on your team are shooting the ball and that’s what we did.
“I thought we took good shots. If you look at our field-goal percentage, it’s pretty good on the road. We didn’t miss a lot of shots and the ones we did miss were good shots. I just thought we played solid from start to finish.”
Baylor made 10 of its first 12 shots to take a commanding 21-10 lead midway through the first half, eventually leading 47-31 at halftime. The Bears (11-1, 1-0) never looked back.
“We’ve been able to rely on playing really reliable, aggressive defense, and tonight we had no sense of that,” Patterson said. “To me, that was the biggest difference-maker in this game — just our lack of energy, commitment to fight on the defensive end was, to me, the biggest frustration tonight.”
The lone bright spot for the Wildcats was the play of junior Ashia Woods and freshman Leti Romero, who combined to score 47 points. Woods, playing in only her eighth game since returning from a torn Achilles tendon last season, finished with a career-high 27 points, five rebounds and six steals. Romero had 20 points and five rebounds in the losing effort.
“I was really proud of the floor game that Ashia Woods and Leti Romero brought to the floor,” Patterson said. “They just battled every second, and it wasn’t just about their points, it was about their presence defensively — their hands, their deflections and just the battle mentality by those two.
“I hope it catches on, because they’re showing the kind of great Big 12 competitors that they are.”
That was the problem for the Wildcats, who shot 36 percent (21 of 58) from the field and turned the turned the ball over 16 times. Other than Woods and Romero, K-State didn’t bring much else to the table. Only four other players even scored, getting eight points from Katya Leick. That left 59 combined minutes between five other players who were shut out offensively.
“I think we had a lot of opportunities tonight, but we just played soft,” Patterson said. “You have to be very, very fierce with your disposition as an open shooter. You need to have toughness on the catch and shoot. We sometimes tend to be very soft on the perimeter with those catches.
“There’s not that same level of competitive toughness, and we have to develop that.”
K-State will have a short turnaround before traveling to Austin, Texas, to face the Longhorns on Sunday at 2 p.m.
“We need to get tougher because it’s not going to get much easier,” said Woods, who was 9 of 14 from the field, including 3 of 6 from behind the arc. “We just have to understand that we have to be tough and fight every single night.”
Romero said the Wildcats can’t use their youth as an excuse going forward.
“Obviously, the Big 12 is hard and we need to get ready for that,” said Romero, who finished 7 of 12 from the floor. “I think being a young team is no excuse, but we are doing a good job in practice. We just need to do a better job in games.”
The Wildcats’ next home game is Wednesday, Jan. 8 against Oklahoma State at 7 p.m.