During last year’s 86-51 loss to perennial powerhouse Baylor in the second round of the Big 12 tournament, Kansas University point guard Angel Goodrich made just three of nine shots and finished with seven points.
Most of the shots Goodrich missed that day were blocked by Baylor All-American Brittney Griner, and, as the Jayhawks prepare to take on the top-ranked Bears at 7 tonight in Waco, Texas, Goodrich hopes she learned a lesson.
“The last time, I was actually trying to stretch so she couldn’t get it, but she still ended up getting it, and it was like, ‘Well, golly,’” Goodrich recalled. “She’s big, and she’s long, and she can reach for those. I know I can’t challenge her because she’s Brittney Griner, and she’s big, so I’ll have to think of different ways to score and distribute the ball and dish it off to my teammates.”
Although Griner was the first word out of most of the Jayhawks’ mouths when talking about tonight’s battle with Baylor (20-0 overall, 7-0 Big 12), there certainly is more to the Bears’ attack than their All-American in the middle.
In addition to Griner’s monster numbers — 22.5 points, 10.1 rebounds and 5.4 blocks per game — the 6-foot-8 junior is backed by a strong supporting cast that also can score and likes to play unselfishly. Sophomore Odyssey Sims averages 15.9 ppg and shoots 46 percent from behind the three-point line. Sims also enters tonight’s game averaging 5.4 assists per game. Junior forward Destiny Williams chips in with 10 points and nine rebounds per outing.
The Bears lead the Big 12 in scoring (82.1 ppg), scoring margin (+30.2) and rebound margin (+14.9). What’s more, Kim Mulkey’s team ranks second nationally in field-goal defense; opponents have shot just 30.3 percent against Baylor this season.
Regardless of what else makes Baylor so good, much of the focus for Kansas continues to be on Griner. Junior forward Carolyn Davis, who leads KU in scoring (18.5 ppg), is the nation’s leader in field-goal percentage (63.2 percent). Davis usually shoots a high percentage because she’s able to get deep position and uses her long arms to make layups. That won’t work against Griner, and Davis spent some of the offseason fine-tuning her game specifically for her meetings with Griner. Asked if she was ready, Davis, who poured in 34 points in a victory against No. 21 Texas Tech on Wednesday night, did not hesitate to answer.
“I am,” she said. “She’s tough, very unique and very difficult to play against. But I have grown my game to where I’m more confident to play her. I think we have a great game plan, and we’ll be fine.”
Asked about the specifics of their plan of attack, both Goodrich and KU coach Bonnie Henrickson stated things in a matter-of-fact manner.
“If we can draw (Griner) out (of the lane), we can get our other bigs in there, and they can do something,” Goodrich said.
Added Henrickson: “We are not going to reinvent the wheel for Baylor, but we have to get (Griner) away from the basket. We have played against her, where she will come out and swat a 15-foot jumpshot. What Griner does offensively is one thing, but how she impacts the game defensively is equally or more impressive.”
Tonight’s match-up is a battle of the top two teams in the current Big 12 standings. The Bears lead the all-time series with the Jayhawks 15-7, including a 7-2 mark in Waco. Kansas has lost five straight in the Ferrell Center. KU’s most recent victory at Baylor came in January 2000. KU’s most recent victory in the series was a 69-45 blowout in March 2009 in Lawrence.
KANSAS (16-3, 5-2)
G — Angel Goodrich, 5-4, jr.
G — Natalie Knight, 5-7, fr.
G — Monica Engelman, 5-11, jr.
F — Carolyn Davis, 6-3, jr.
F — Aishah Sutherland, 6-2, sr.
BAYLOR (20-0, 7-0)
G — Jordan Madden, 6-0, jr.
G — Kimetria Hayden, 6-0, jr.
G — Odyssey Sims, 5-9, soph.
F — Destiny Williams, 6-1, jr.
C — Brittney Griner, 6-8, jr.