Baylor’s Griner helps expose team’s lack of inside presence

Sameer Bhuchar

When Baylor’s Brittney Griner snagged one of her 12 rebounds over the Longhorns on Saturday afternoon in Waco, she held the ball high above her 6-foot-8 head and played a game of keep away, reminiscent of the big kid on the playground messing with youngsters who just don’t belong. Texas (16-8, 5-5 Big 12), the children of the blacktop, was too short in every sense of the word. They were too short to defend Griner’s sky-high presence in the paint. They were short on their jump shots, and they ultimately fell short on the scoreboard.

“We couldn’t do anything with her,” said Texas coach Gail Goestenkors of Griner. “We really got beat in every way, shape and form — inside, outside and their penetration.”

The Longhorns’ 96-68 loss to the top-ranked Bears (23-1, 10-0) was more indicative of Texas’ weaknesses than it was of Baylor’s obvious strengths. After the game, Ashleigh Fontenette, the Longhorns’ leading scorer, said she believes that Baylor has it all.

“They have every piece that you need to be a great team,” Fontenette said. “They have shooters, inside attack, they play great defense. That is why they are No. 1.” In other words, they have depth. Texas, on the other hand, lacks that luxury, and it’s never been more apparent than it was on Saturday. Texas lacks a formidable inside presence, which creates problems for the whole team. Though Ashley Gayle has been a defensive nightmare for opponents, her inability to score inside forces Texas’ guards to shoulder the load of scoring points in the paint.

Six Bears accounted for 12 team blocks, with Griner swatting seven of them. Griner also scored 29 points in 30 minutes.

“We usually do a really good job of drawing her out and finding somebody else [to pass to], but [today] we were going right at her and that wasn’t something we really wanted to do,” Goestenkors said. “So I am sure that seven people regret their decisions.”

When they couldn’t score inside, the Longhorns relied on their jump shooters. Texas made only 26 of 89 field goals.

Essentially, the Bears rendered the Texas offense one dimensional. Furthermore, the Longhorns only used four players off the bench, whereas Baylor used eight. Baylor’s bench out-scored Texas 24-18. After the game, Goestenkors told Baylor’s head coach Kim Mulkey that if her team continued playing with that type of chemistry, they would go all the way.

The Longhorns, whose next five games feature three ranked opponents, have to hone their bench players and work on their play inside and out to even manage to stay in the top half of the Big 12.