Baylor Wins Again

<p>Baylor scored first, last, and by one point, most Thursday night in the semifinals of the Big 12 Conference tournament to drive a dagger through the heart of Texas Tech's season-best defense and hopes to avoid a three-game sweep. Chelsea Whittaker drove unobstructed through the lane to sink the shot after Baylor had trailed throughout the second half.

For the second game in a row, Tech's bench players proved themselves possessed of warrior spirit and determination. Darrice Griffin, relieving both Tech's seasoned post players as fouls mounted against them, spent 25 minutes on the floor while scoring 11 points and grabbing five boards. She blocked two shots and stole the ball once.

As they have all year, Tech's post players had remarkable performances against the Bears. LaToya Davis, the junior forward from Houston, turned in 18 points, eight rebounds, one block and two steals to lead Tech's battle-back time after time after time, while senior center Cisti Greenwalt, her minutes limited by foul trouble, managed only three points and two rebounds. Baylor's ferocious inside play created opportunities for Greenwalt to garner two assists, one on a spectacular save, before fouling out with 1:19 remaining.

Greenwalt knocked the loose ball back inbounds, giving every appearance of intending to carom it out off a Bear's leg, but Alesha Robertson bounced down from the top of the lane to meet the bounce and slam home the second-chance for two of her eight points on the night. Robertson collected seven boards – and all five of her offensive rebounds were full-throttle hard stops against a resurgent Baylor. In 37 minutes, shooting four of 13 and none of four from three-point country, Robertson racked up two blocks and four assists.

Tech came out leading 33-30 at the half and never trailed again until Whittaker's lay-up made the score 58-57. Plagued all year long by fits of cold shooting, the Lady Raiders repeated that trick three times during the match; Tech's offense went flat in the first half for more than two minutes and twice in the second half, including a four-minute drought Robertson's jumper off Greenwalt's assist finally broke.

The Lady Raiders did not score again, despite Baylor's foul against Griffin with 8.1 seconds left. The first shot of the one-and-one bounced back out, ending the former Seagraves standout's perfect charity-shooting streak at three-for-three. Robertson got a block to stop Emily Niemann's three-point shot with 20 seconds left, but Baylor's Sophia Young yanked down the offensive board. Off her pass, junior Steffanie Blackmon sank a jumper to bring the Bears within a point.

Davis, who has led the league all year in field goal accuracy, hit seven of 13 from the floor and all four of her free throws. Greenwalt went one-for-two from the charity stripe and one-for-four from the field. Chesley Dabbs, Tech's junior guard, hit all 10 of her points from the field on five-for-12 shooting; she did not attempt a free throw in the game.

Tech's point guard Erin Grant earned six assists and five points in the contest, pulling down two boards and grabbing a steal. She had only one turnover, her first of the tournament.

Freshman Judith Smith succeeded once in her four attempts to score. She missed both treys but hauled down a pair of rebounds on behalf of the Lady Raiders and collected two assists during her stint at point guard in the second half. Grant, a junior, rested eight minutes in the game, with a minute's relief from sophomore Brooke Baughman in the first half and seven minutes' respite in the second, courtesy of Smith.

Baylor pulled ahead early; the lead changed between teams on almost every shot for the early third of the first half before Tech established a narrow margin. Led by Young's 18 points and 13 rebounds, Baylor proved relentless and unforgiving, yet played a remarkable second half: Tech shot only one free throw after halftime, and Baylor racked up a total of 14 personal fouls in the game while giving up eight turnovers.

Tech collected 15 fouls and lost the ball an even dozen times; charity shooters sank eight of 10 attempts but missed six of seven from beyond the arc, with the sole success Erin Grant's only offering from down range. Baylor missed all six attempts at a trey.

The Bears' Steffanie Blackmon poured in 15 points, hitting one of her two free throws and collecting six boards, a block and a steal. She finished with four fouls, a team high, and played all 40 minutes. Whittaker hit six of 10 from the field and grabbed two rebounds while dishing out five assists; she snagged a steal but gave up three turnovers in her 36 minutes on the floor. Baylor freshman Emily Niemann hit three of seven shots and finished the game with six points, one rebound, a steal, and a turnover. Bears Chameka Scott and Abiola Wabara combined for seven points.

As a team, Baylor managed 37 rebounds compared to Tech's 38, and shot 37 percent from the field and 71 percent from the charity stripe while the Lady Raiders converted 41 percent of their 59 attempts from the field and 80 percent of their 10 free throws.

The Lady Raiders are scheduled to host games March 19 and 21 in Dallas as the NCAA Postseason Tournament opens.


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