Jones helps upset No. 8 AggiesJan. 28, 2010
Sarah Groman | Lariat staff
Melissa Jones drives to the basket during her first game back from her injury. The Lady Bears beat the Aggies, 61-53.
By Chris Derrett
Before she could score or make one of her patented hustle plays, Melissa Jones drew a thunderous ovation for something she had not done in Baylor's past four games: checking in.
Jones gave the season-high 8,702 fans 17 points and three steals in 36 minutes, and along with Brittney Griner's 20-point performance the Lady Bears beat Texas A&M, 61-53, on Wednesday night.
After missing four games with a stress reactor, Jones entered the game within the first minute to a warm Ferrell Center welcome. She nailed a fadeaway jumper that tied the game at two, and the Aggies were never able to tie or regain the lead. Neither Baylor nor Jones looked back once her first shot swished through the net.
"When you're playing a team as good as A&M, it gives you that confidence that you're going to go in and keep taking it to them," Jones said on her first points of her return.
The Lady Bears seized a 3-2 lead then turned to Jones and Griner for their next 10 points. During the stretch Griner blocked two shots and Jones drew three shooting fouls.
"The difference in the ball game? You could say Melissa Jones. Her attitude makes everybody else on that team play hard," Aggies coach Gary Blair said. "Jones looked like she was playing hurt out there a little bit with one leg. But she gutted it out and kept going and that just shows a lot of class."
Baylor's defense also held Texas A&M to 2-13 shooting while jumping out to the 13-6 lead. Unlike in its previous three losses, the Lady Bears denied their opponent of dribble penetration and forced the Aggies to rely on jump shots throughout the night.
Coach Kim Mulkey praised the defense effort from Griner and Morghan Medlock, who held the Aggies' center Danielle Adams and forward Tanisha Smith to a combined 5-25 on the night.
"I thought (Medlock) did the best that she could with being as physical as she could against a bigger player. When Adams went outside we tried to contest as many shots as we could," Mulkey said.
And then there was Jones.
Her hard-nosed style of play lead to eight first-half free throws, six of which she made. Seeing Jones crash to the floor to fight for loose balls and earn trips to the charity stripe gave her teammates a boost, Griner said after the game.
"She's our captain. She's the glue that holds us together. To have her out there on the floor lifted all of us and, like coach said, she makes us all better," Griner said.
Mulkey tried to give Jones a rest with six minutes left in the first half, but two turnovers and two missed shots later, the junior guard returned from her one minute on the bench. She soon sent the crowd into hysteria with a half court heave that landed in Griner's hands for a layup and shooting foul.
The Lady Bears took a 30-18 lead into halftime, which increased to 40-26 before Mulkey again tried to give Jones a breather. Having already helped her team immensely, Jones extended her helping hand to the ball girl, grabbing the mop to clean the floor before exiting.
"I was just looking out for nobody to get hurt," Jones said.
Jones and senior forward Morghan Medlock are the only Baylor players who have been in the Lady Bears program more than two years. Medlock had 10 rebounds.
"I sure wish we would have had her the last four games. That's what you expect players of her caliber to do," Mulkey said. "She makes everybody around her better. ... It's her presence that is so valuable."
Another two turnovers and two fouls forced Mulkey to put Jones back in for the rest of the game.
Not looking to go quietly, the Aggies cut a 10-point deficit in half to come as close as 51-45 with 58 seconds remaining. But Baylor hit 10 of 10 free throws, six coming from Kelli Griffin, to ice the game.
With 32 seconds left Griner added an exclamation point to an already crowd-thrilling game by rejecting Danielle Adams' 3-point attempt.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.