WACO, Texas — West Virginia’s women kept challenging Brittney Griner and Baylor’s two-time All-American kept swatting the shots away.
The 6-foot-8 center had nine blocks, coming within one rejection of a triple-double on a night that included 26 points and 15 rebounds, and top-ranked Baylor thumped WVU 76-58.
“I love it,” Griner said. “Most teams don’t get inside to their posts against me. So when they do, I take advantage of it.”
With 651 blocks, the senior climbed within 13 of breaking the NCAA career record. She was equally efficient on the offensive end, making 11-of-17 shots. Her imposing presence helped the Lady Bears (16-1, 6-0 Big 12) own a 43-26 scoring edge in the paint.
“Griner, best player in the country, bar none,” West Virginia coach Mike Carey said. “She’s gotten better every year. .. And she’s under control at all times. As a coach, you think she’s going over somebody’s back. She’s really not. She’s jumping over them.”
“I love it. Most teams don’t get inside to their posts against me. So when they do, I take advantage of it.” — Baylor’s Brittney Griner
Griner had a potential 10th block negated by a traveling call on West Virginia. She sat out the game’s final four minutes, unaware how close she was to a triple-double. “I’m never really aware of that,” said Griner, who learned of her stat line from a sports-information staffer after the game.
The Lady Bears won their 28th consecutive regular-season conference game and their 49th consecutive at the Ferrell Center, the nation’s longest active home winning streak.
West Virginia (11-6, 3-3) saw its three-game Big 12 winning stark snapped despite a season-best 22 points from Christal Caldwell and a season-high 16 team steals.
West Virginia’s only lead came on the opening possession when Taylor Palmer hit a 3-pointer. Baylor countered with a 20-2 run that stirred up the season-high crowd of 10,245 into a frenzy. Griner had 10 points in that streak and 18 at the half when Baylor led 40-24.
“New team in the league, I think we’re all excited to play somebody that we haven’t seen,” Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said. “Of course, we saw them in the (NCAA tournament) two years ago. I thought the crowd was great. When we started the game, I thought we were focused and I thought we were ready to play.”
The silver lining for WVU: It basically stalemated Baylor in the second half, and suffered only a 46-40 rebounding deficit.
“Great atmosphere, great crowd and a great place to play,” Carey said. “I thought we competed for the most part.”
WVU shot 32.8 percent (21-64) to the Bears’ 50.9 percent (28-55) from the floor. The Mountaineers were only 12-of-29 at the foul line.
“Griner, best player in the country, bar none. She’s gotten better every year.” — West Virginia coach Mike Carey said
Palmer added 14 points and Jess Harlee and Averee Fields each chipped in five. Crystal Leary came off the bench and matched her career-best with 11 rebounds in 15 minutes.
WVU’s Ayana Dunning, averaging 10.8 points a game, finished scoreless with four fouls in 23 minutes. She was 0-for-8 shooting, including five misses from 3-point range.
Caldwell led the Mountaineers with a career-best five steals, followed by Harlee with four. The Mountaineers forced 19 Baylor turnovers, while limiting their own to 13.
“We turned them over like we felt we could 19 times and we didn’t get out-rebounded that bad,” Carey said. “But (Griner) hit some big shots. She just opens up so many more people on the floor that you really wouldn’t have to help off of, but then they become effective and start getting hot.”
Baylor guard Odyssey Sims added 15 points and Kimetria Hayden chipped in 10.
West Virginia sophomore guard Akilah Bethel was carried off the court with about two minutes remaining. She grabbed her left knee after falling on a drive to the basket. Carey did not address the extent of her injury after the game.
WVU returns home to face Texas Tech on Tuesday at 7 p.m.