Kansas can't keep up with Baylor
Game snowballs out of control for Jayhawks, who struggle against Baylor defense
LAWRENCE, Kan. -- Yet another winter storm walloped these parts Wednesday, but Baylor's Destiny Williams loved it. It reminded her of being home in Michigan. She hasn't seen snow since moving to Waco, Texas, last year when she transferred from Illinois.
After the game, she would have been perfectly happy to go outside Allen Fieldhouse and play in the white stuff. And the Kansas Jayhawks probably would just as soon have engaged Baylor in a snowball fight. They might have had better luck than they did on the basketball court. At the very least, it couldn't have been any worse.
Baylor clobbered KU as hard as the weather clobbered Lawrence. The nearly palindromic score of 76-37 was quite an adequate revenge for the loss Baylor suffered here at Kansas on its last visit in March 2009.
Baylor, then No. 6 in the rankings, was upset 69-45 in a Big 12 regular-season game. Baylor's top three scorers in the win on Wednesday night weren't with the program back then. Williams and Brittney Griner were seniors in high school, while Odyssey Sims was a junior.
All of them are making a major impact now. Griner, of course, you already know all about. She had 22 points, 15 rebounds and five blocked shots against the Jayhawks.
The nation got its first good look at Sims when Baylor lost by a point to UConn in Hartford on Nov. 16. Against KU, she had 21 points on 8-of-11 shooting, and her defense helped frustrate the Jayhawks into an anemic 28.8 percent shooting.
Williams, who left Illinois at the semester break last season, played her first game for coach Kim Mulkey on Dec. 20 against Clemson. On Wednesday, she had 12 points and six rebounds.
And before Baylor beat the Kansas women, Mulkey got some inspiration from watching the Kansas men. The No. 1-ranked women's team in the nation saw what Kansas coach Bill Self's No. 2- ranked men's team did Monday at Baylor's Ferrell Center.
"They put on a clinic at our place," Mulkey said of the KU men's 85-65 victory over the Bears. "I love what that team did. And a lot of things they did, I translated it to our basketball team because we try to run some of the same stuff Bill does.
"It started with our defense on the ball. I think Odyssey Sims brings a dimension to our team with her relentless on-ball pressure, and it makes everybody else be active on the wings."
No Jayhawk scored in double figures. Starting post players Carolyn Davis and Aishah Sutherland in particular struggled, going a combined 2-of-11 from the field for just four points.
"You can't ask for better defensive players than Odyssey and Brittney," Williams said. "You've got a perimeter player who's so quick on her feet and quick with her hands. Then you've got a 6-8 player who you can't get around without getting your shot blocked."
Baylor had an 11-0 run to begin the game, and it never felt like a contest. Baylor is now 17-1 overall and 4-0 in Big 12 play, with No. 25 Texas Tech -- which lost its first league game Wednesday at No. 14 Oklahoma -- visiting Waco on Saturday.
Texas Tech must try to solve a Baylor defense that has held its past two opponents below 40 points. Sims loves that.
"Since I was in eighth grade, I really picked up my defense," Sims said. "At first, I didn't know I was very quick. But me pressuring the ball 94 feet down the court and getting steals -- it just became a rhythm, and I got the hang of it."
It just makes our team go. It's the first time I've coached a point guard where I never have to say, 'Get up there and pressure the ball.' She's dominant at her position.” -- Baylor coach Kim Mulkey on freshman Odyssey Sims' defense
Once at Baylor, Sims was thrust into a bigger role than she was expecting after senior guard Kelli Griffin left the program just before the season started. The plan had been to bring Sims, who injured her ACL in February 2010, along somewhat slowly. Instead, Sims has adjusted very fast.
"There was a lot of stuff coming at me early," Sims said. "But the coaches did a good job of getting me prepared for this, just in case something happened, so I'd be ready."
Mulkey isn't into overpraising players. So it really means something when she lauds Sims, especially her defense.
"It just makes our team go," Mulkey said. "It's the first time I've coached a point guard where I never have to say, 'Get up there and pressure the ball.' She's dominant at her position, and she wanted to play with the No. 1 post player."
Williams, meanwhile, said she knew just before classes started in August 2009 that she really didn't want to be at Illinois. Still, she stayed a semester, playing in just one game. Then she transferred to Baylor.
"I talked to Coach Mulkey, and she just explained flat-out how it is and what was expected of me," Williams said. "And I accepted that. Academically, it was perfect, and I'm playing for a coach who's won championships."
Williams said that fellow sophomore Brooklyn Pope, who sat out all last season after transferring from Rutgers, has been a big help to her.
"She's a 4 player like me, and she cheers for me and motivates me," Williams said. "Brooklyn and I understand what this opportunity means, and we're truly grateful to be at Baylor."
However, Williams wouldn't have minded if the team had been forced to stay in the Midwest overnight, rather than take a charter flight home from Kansas City International Airport.
"Everybody else was panicking," said Williams, although senior Melissa Jones -- who had her usual steady game with four points, five assists and nine rebounds -- is from Colorado and surely is unfazed by the harsh reality of winter.
"But me, I'd like to goof around a little bit in the snow," continued Williams, of Benton Harbor, Mich. "Earlier today, I was just having a blast outside."
Coming indoors, though, was also pretty fun for Baylor. Not for the Jayhawks, but that's a feeling almost all Baylor's opponents have had this season.
"I don't think they came in here and left any doubt they're the best team right now," KU coach Bonnie Henrickson said. "And it wasn't just about Brittney Griner the whole night."
Mechelle Voepel, a regular contributor to ESPN.com, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read her blog at http://voepel.wordpress.com.
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