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Inexperience forces a Lady Bears loss

Jan. 18, 2010

By Chris Derrett
Sports writer

Brittney Griner had 18 points and six blocks in Sunday's game against Nebraska, but it was not enough as Baylor fell to the Cornhuskers, 65-56, at the Ferrell Center. Nebraska improves to 16-0, 3-0 in conference play, while the Lady Bears (14-3, 1-2) have a week off to continue building its young team whose inexperience was exploited by the Cornhuskers down the stretch.

With 8:56 left in the second half Griner fought for a basket underneath the rim, drawing a foul and making the free throw to tie the game at 48. From there Nebraska outscored Baylor 17-6 to earn its first true road win against a top 10 opponent.

Coach Kim Mulkey credited the late scoring charge to the Cornhuskers' experience, as they were able to execute plays for two key three-pointers. While the Lady Bears are full of youth, Nebraska's starting lineup boasted three seniors and a junior.

"Remember the cross screen and down screen and the girl came up and hit the big three? That's what experienced players do. That's a big shot for them," Mulkey said about the three-pointer that put Nebraska ahead 52-50 and gave them a lead they would not again surrender.

Nebraska finished 12-34 from three-point range, keeping the ball away from the 6-foot-8 Griner.

The offensive execution was not there for Baylor, who missed 10 of its last 13 shots, though Mulkey was not at all surprised given her team's youth and lack of playing time. It is still difficult, Mulkey said, for her players to correctly run plays drawn up in the huddle or called in from the sideline.

"We have kids who are herky jerky, wild, whatever you want to call it right now, and that's to be expected. What you have to have is upperclassmen lead you," she said.

Mulkey's team clearly missed junior guard Melissa Jones' perimeter shooting and leadership, as Jones missed her third straight game with a stress reactor.

Even with their quarterback sidelined with injury the Lady Bears began strongly, jumping out to an early 12-5 lead. Griner blocked two shots in that stretch, including a basket-saving swat from behind after Nebraska threatened to turn a Terran Condrey turnover into an easy transition layup.

The Cornhuskers answered with their own 13-6 run to tie the game at 18, and their next two possessions then yielded back-to-back three-pointers. Before that point Nebraska made just one of 12 three-point attempts; they hit 11 of their last 22 to tie a school record for three-pointers made. They continued raining three's throughout the game, although senior guard Yvonne Turner said there was not a heavy focus on outside shooting in the gameplan.

"Going into this game we weren't thinking about just shooting all three's. We had open shots and coach told us we could take open shots; just be smart with our shot selection," Turner said.

Entering the locker room the Lady Bears were down 31-26 but began the second half with a 6-0 run to take the lead. The two teams rapidly exchanged several baskets before coach Mulkey was given a technical foul following what she felt should have been a foul as Griner fought to the basket under defensive pressure.

Griner racked up six total blocks, four in the second half and her last coming just before the technical foul. Nebraska entered the game knowing Griner would play stifling defense, but, as Cory Montgomery showed with her team trailing, persistence won in the end.

Montgomery had her three-point attempt blocked out of bounds by Griner while the Cornhuskers were down 41-39, but on the ensuing Nebraska possession she threw up another three-pointer with Griner's hand in her face and swished it.