Baylor’s Brittney Griner towers over UC Santa Barbara’s Melissa Zornig. Griner blocked three shots and had 14 points as Baylor set up a Tuesday matchup with Florida.
BOWLING GREEN — Don’t refer to them as Cal-Santa Barbara. Ditto for the titles UC-Santa Barbara, U.C.S.B, and University of California, Santa Barbara.
This No. 16 seed in the NCAA women’s basketball tournament makes it known in its media notes its name is UC Santa Barbara.
On Sunday, you could just call them overmatched.
UCSB suffered the ill fate everyone expected, getting hammered 81-40 to Brittany Griner and the top-seeded Baylor Bears in a first round matchup at the Stroh Center. Baylor, the nation’s only undefeated team at 35-0, advances to play Florida on Tuesday.
If this contest wasn’t decided in the Bears’ 12-0 run out of the gate, the defining moment came less than four minutes after halftime when Gauchos coach Carlene Mitchell pulled all five of her starters off the court. Her counterpart, Baylor’s Kim Mulkey, accepted Mitchell’s act of surrender and did the same.
“Our kids gave the effort, but I mean, we were outmanned at every position,” Mitchell said. “It’s pretty obvious.”
Fans who showed up to see Griner, the Big 12 player of the year, saw just 22 minutes of her. Still, she led five Bears who scored in double figures, totaling 14 points and blocking three shots. At 6-foot-8, she bullied defenders in the paint, snagging offensive boards over multiple Gauchos and burying six-footers with little resistance. A hook shot with about two minutes left in the first half might have been her finest moment.
Baylor’s second best player, Odyssey Sims, didn’t start because of a minor disciplinary reason, according to Mulkey, and posted 10 points. Brooklyn Pope (13 points), Destiny Williams (12), and Sune Agbuke (11) contributed to the Bears’ 58 percent shooting.
“They’re the real deal,” Mitchell said. “They’re in that same caliber as the Connecticuts, the Tennessees, and they do have a chance.”
With guards the same size as UCSB’s post players, Baylor forced seven shot clock violations and held the Gauchos to 16-for-60 shooting (26 percent).
The Bears led by double digits for the final 35 minutes and entered halftime ahead 46-16.
“We played for 30 seconds, and we got shot clock violations,” Williams said. “It gives us the energy to come down and make a great decision offensively.”
UCSB, which has zero players who average double figures in points, was led by Emilie Johnson’s 10 points.
Those who stuck around for the end of the tilt were rewarded by a 3-pointer Mulkey said is worthy of being featured on SportsCenter. With time set to expire on the shot clock, the ball was tipped out of the lane to Baylor’s Lindsay Palmer, who turned and fired from four feet in front of half court. Swish. Palmer’s first 3-pointer of the season elicited laughter from her teammates, including Mulkey’s daughter, Mackenzie Robertson, who covered her grin with her hand as she backpedaled to play defense.
“Lindsay’s 3 was amazing,” Griner said. “We were very excited. It’s good to see [reserves] out there.”
Contact Ryan Autullo at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6160 or on Twitter @RyanAutullo.