What a difference an upperclassman makes. For Baylor (15-4, 2-3), having junior Melissa Jones back in the lineup gave them the boost they needed to halt a losing streak. No. 14 Baylor defeated No. 8 Texas A&M (15-3, 3-2) in front of a season-high 8,702 spectators, a crowd heavily populated by Aggie fans.
Jones who finished the game with a double-double of 17 points and 10 rebounds, was out of commission with an injury for four games before Wednesday night. She scored Baylor’s first points of the game, tying up the score at 2-2 at two and half minutes into the contest. Baylor scored the next five points, taking the lead and led for the rest of the game.
“The difference in the ball game, you could say, was Melissa Jones,” said Aggie head coach Gary Blair. “Her attitude makes everybody on that team play hard. They would not be 1-3 if Jones had been out there for the first four ball games. Jones looked like she was playing hurt and she gutted it out. That showed a lot of class.”
Baylor is now 2-3 in Big 12 play after losing two straight conference games.
Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey praised Jones’ performance and her ability to keep her teammates mentally focused.
“I sure wish we would have had her the last four games,” said Mulkey, “That’s what you expect players of her caliber to do. She makes everybody around her better. She is involved. She understands the game and she communicates with me as a head coach in the timeouts as she sees things that I don’t see out there. She’s our captain, she’s our leader and for her to go out there tonight and play as many minutes as she did is so valuable to our young basketball team.”
Going into the break, Baylor lead 30-18. While Texas A&M seemed tentative on the offensive end, shooting just 28.6 percent from the field, they came out more aggressive on both ends of the floor in the second half. But as Aggie starting guard Sydney Colson commented post-game, “it was too little too late.”
“I felt like this game, we dug into the lead late but I think the most we got it to was five or six,” she said. “I saw a lot of fight in our team. In the huddle, I could see the intensity in people’s eyes. “We didn’t come up with the big stops when we needed them.”
In the showdown of the league’s big women, Baylor 6-foot-8 freshman Brittney Griner won the contest against the Preseason Big 12 Newcomer of the Year, 6-foot-1 junior transfer Danielle Adams and 6-foot-2 Damitria Buchanan. Griner finished with 20 points, five blocks and five rebounds. She now ranks second on the Big 12 single-season blocks list and needs just eight more to overtake former Oklahoma Sooner Courtney Paris for first place.
Her presence was troublesome for Blair’s team.
“It didn’t bother Missouri, but it bothered us,” he said. “Her presence was very good and her altering shots was key. That is why she is who she is and she is a great player.”
Adams had seven points and seven rebounds for the Aggies while Buchanan went scoreless. Tyra White led the Aggies with 19 points.
Both Griner and Jones indicated that they were very focused on winning the the game.
“I knew we need this win at home,” said Griner. “We lost to Nebraska on our home court and you never want to lose on your home court. I kind of had a little something on my back coming into this game so I just wanted to go out and do well.”
Jones added that the game was beneficial for team’s morale.
“I think having this game at home was really good for us,” she said. “It gave us that home advantage and it brought us a little bit of excitement.”
Baylor returns to action when they meet No. 19 Texas in Austin on Sunday, January 31 at 4 p.m. CT. The game will be broadcast on ESPN2.
Texas A&M host Oklahoma State on the same day at noon for a FSN televised game.