WACO, Texas — Brittney Griner and third-ranked Baylor were ready to play, and young No. 10 Tennessee never recovered after the Lady Bears’ fast start.
Griner scored the first six points of the game and Baylor the first 17 overall on the way to extending its home winning streak to 45 in a row with a surprisingly easy 76-53 victory Tuesday night.
“Our defensive intensity, the excitement of the crowd, maybe it was the excitement of they’re going home now for Christmas for a while,” coach Kim Mulkey said.
“We haven’t played (in a week). It’s just like they were ready to go, our defensive intensity was pretty special there at the beginning. Everybody fed off of each other when the game started.”
Tennessee (7-2) missed its first 11 shots.
Griner, who had 17 points and 12 rebounds for third consecutive double-double, already had nine points before the Lady Vols finally scored.
“We just came out prepared and on fire,” Griner said. “Any time we play Tennessee, it’s a high-intensity game.”
Along with the 6-foot-8 two-time All-American’s 47th career double-double, Brooklyn Pope had 11 points and 16 rebounds for the Lady Bears (9-1).
In a rematch of last season’s NCAA regional final, a 77-58 Lady Bears victory in what was Tennessee coach Pat Summitt’s final game last March, the Lady Vols trailed 41-16 at the half. That was their largest halftime deficit ever.
“I think we just came in a little too antsy. It was a big game, and we just were little too pressed,” Cierra Burdick said. “We couldn’t buy a shot and that really hurt us, and we let our offense dictate the rest of the game.”
Tennessee had won seven in a row, including four games against Top 25 teams, since opening its first season under new head coach Holly Warlick with a loss at Tennessee-Chattanooga.
Baylor returned all five starters from its 40-0 national championship team. The Lady Vols returned none from last season and now have a lineup featuring no seniors and one junior.
Griner had nine of Baylor’s first 11 points less than 4 minutes into the game. The Lady Bears won their seventh in a row since losing to top-ranked Stanford a week into the season.
Burdick’s long jumper with 13:05 left in the first half gave Tennessee its first points.
The Lady Vols trailed 33-13 at Rutgers in January 2009, which had been the previous largest halftime deficit. Rutgers scored the first 14 points that night, but Tennessee rallied after halftime for a 55-51 victory.
No such luck against Griner and the Lady Bears, who are 101-1 against nonconference teams at home in Mulkey’s 13 seasons. But Tennessee did outscore them 37-35 in the second half.
“In the second half, we played with a lot of heart. The first half, we quick-shot the ball … They were trying to make everything up in one possession,” Warlick said. “We’re young. We’re not using that as an excuse, but this is December and it’s a learning process for us.”
After Meighan Simmons made a 3-pointer and then two free throws early in the second half to get within 47-26, Tennessee didn’t get closer until cutting the deficit to 20 in the closing minutes after Griner was on the bench for good. The Lady Bears then scored seven points in a row capped by Kimetria Hayden’s 3-pointer.
Hayden had 16 points and six assists. Jordan Madden had 12 points while Odysssy Sims, a preseason All-American, had eight points, eight assists and two steals with only two turnovers in 35 minutes.
Simmons had 16 points while Kamiko Williams had 15 points, 10 rebounds and six assists for the Lady Vols.
Griner scored on an inside basket while being fouled, though she missed the free throw, and also had a short baseline jumper in the opening minute of the game. She went down the court clapping her hands and encouraging her teammates with “Let’s go!”
When Griner rebounded her own miss, she quickly turned around and made a short baseline jumper that ratted in for a 6-0 lead only 1:37 into the game.
It was 11-0 after Griner’s three-point play. Sims then had a steal and a breakaway layup, and converted a steal by Hayden into another layup even after initially losing the handle while going up for the shot that made it 17-0.
Hayden had three consecutive 3-pointers for the Lady Bears before Pope had two layups as part of a 13-0 spurt later in the first half.
The Lady Vols hadn’t played in 14 days before their Texas two-step which started with a 94-75 victory at then-18th-ranked Texas on Sunday. They are back home Saturday against Stanford.
Stanford’s 81 home wins in a row is the only active streak longer than Baylor, which doesn’t play again until Dec. 29 against Southeastern Louisiana in its last nonconference game of the season.
The teams honored the victims of the Connecticut mass shooting with green and white T-shirts representing the colors of Sandy Hook Elementary School. Players wore them during pregame warmups, and throughout the game when on the bench.
The shirts had the letters S.H.E.S. and the words “We will remember” along with the picture of a ribbon. Coaches from both teams wore green and white ribbons, and there was a moment of silence before the game for the victims and families affected by the tragedy Friday in Newtown, Conn.
NO. 7 KENTUCKY 80, PEPPERDINE 62
MALIBU, Calif. — DeNesha Stallworth scored 17 points and Bria Goss added 16 to lead Kentucky over Pepperdine.
Stallworth scored 13 points in the second half and the Wildcats (9-1) pulled away from the Waves (3-6) for their eighth consecutive victory.
Kentucky led by only four at halftime but opened the second half with a 16-4 run. Stallworth scored 11 during the stretch. Stallworth got open for a layup and Samarie Walker scored back-to-back uncontested layups to give the Wildcats their biggest lead, 65-43.
Shay Cooney-Williams led Pepperdine with 14 points.
NO. 14 LOUISVILLE 75, WASHINGTON ST. 39
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Sara Hammond scored 18 points and Bria Smith added 13 to lead Louisville to a rout of Washington State.
Shoni Schimmel added 12 points and Jude Schimmel 10 for the Cardinals (10-2), who had lost two of their previous three games but held the Cougars to 32-percent shooting (16 of 50).
Washington State (3-6), coming off a 62-55 upset win over No. 20 Ohio State on Dec. 15, posted its lowest point total of the season.
Tied at 11 after 11 minutes, Louisville closed out the first half on a 24-3 run.
Lia Galdeira scored 13 points to lead Washington State.
NO. 16 DAYTON 90, AKRON 59
AKRON, Ohio — Andrea Hoover and Cassie Sant scored 18 points apiece to lead Dayton to a nonconference win over Akron.
Samantha Mackay had a strong all-around game with 13 points, 10 assists, seven rebounds, and three steals for Dayton (11-0). Reserve Olivia Applewhite added 15 points and six rebounds.
Dayton went on a 29-10 run to take a 34-14 lead with 9:39 left in the first half. Hoover made three 3-pointers and scored 15 points in the half to help the Flyers take a 50-33 lead at the half.
Dayton opened the second half on a 15-2 run to blow open the game.
Rachel Tecca led the Zips (8-3) with 13 points and six rebounds.