UCSB women lose 81-40 to top-seeded Baylor

NOAH TRISTER AP Sports Writer Published:

BOWLING GREEN, Ohio (AP) -- Kirsten Tilleman fouled out with 4:56 remaining. Before she sat down, the UC Santa Barbara center shouted some encouragement to her teammates still on the court.

Then after the game, the Gauchos gathered in a huddle near midcourt, waved to the crowd and headed off.

As expected, UCSB was routed Sunday by top-seeded Baylor, losing 81-40 in the Des Moines Regional. But the Gauchos held their heads high. Tilleman banged with Lady Bears star Brittney Griner for much of the game and seemed to enjoy herself.

"It was a lot of fun, and I respect her as a player and I wish them the best," Tilleman said. "This isn't the last you've seen of the Gauchos."

Griner scored 14 points in only 22 minutes. Brooklyn Pope scored 13 points for the Lady Bears and Destiny Williams added 12. Odyssey Sims contributed 10.

Baylor (35-0) has not lost since falling in the quarterfinals of last year's NCAA tournament.

Emilie Johnson scored 10 points for UCSB (17-16). The Gauchos swarmed the 6-foot-8 Griner early and prevented her from dominating, but Baylor has plenty of other options.

"I went into the game thinking that I'm not going to let her just push me around, and I tried to set the tone early," Tilleman said. "Sometimes the refs will let you play like that and sometimes they won't, and I wasn't able to do it the entire game. But at least they know who we are."

Griner, the towering center who wowed the crowd by dunking during warmups, went 7 for 11 during the game. The 6-foot-1 Tilleman was physical with Griner and drew an early offensive foul on the Baylor star. The Gauchos at times had two players fronting Griner to prevent Baylor from passing her the ball, but other players took advantage for the Lady Bears.

Baylor's defense was stifling throughout. The Lady Bears scored the game's first 12 points, and the Gauchos struggled on several occasions to get a shot off before the shot clock expired.

"We played against maybe the eventual national champion," UCSB coach Carlene Mitchell said. "We were outmanned, it's pretty obvious, at every position, and you have to give Baylor all the credit."

Griner had an easier time finding space inside late in the first half, scoring back-to-back baskets. Then Sims stole the ball from Johnson and went in for a layup to make it 41-14.

It was 46-16 at halftime.

"Championships are won on the defensive end of the floor, championships are won on guard play," Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said. "I thought our guard play was especially effective from the defensive end with being active, being in passing lanes."

Griner scored 45 points in the Big 12 tournament against Kansas State, but in the two games since, she's scored only 25 points on 19 shots. That 86-65 victory over Kansas State was actually the closest game the Lady Bears have played this month.

They figure to be tested at some point, but the NCAA tournament's No. 1 overall seed had little to worry about in the opener. Baylor's most anxious moment may have come in the first half when Sims fell hard after being fouled on a fast break, but she seemed fine.

The Gauchos finished sixth in the Big West during the regular season before winning the conference tournament. They played some low-scoring games earlier, such as a 46-37 loss to Washington back in November, but UCSB couldn't keep this one under control. The Gauchos shot 16 of 60 from the field and had two players foul out.

"We couldn't even get entry passes to the wings so we started trying to use dribble routes," Mitchell said. "They're the real deal."