WACO, Texas — Although Tennessee has shot up the national rankings to No. 10, the youthful Lady Vols didn't suddenly grow up.
Their inexperience Tuesday night stood in stark contrast to the performance of defending national champion Baylor. With four senior starters, the third-ranked Lady Bears flashed finished-product form in a 76-53 women's basketball victory at the Ferrell Center.
The Lady Bears' effort didn't require All-Americans Brittney Griner and Odyssey Sims to reprise their usual roles against UT.
Griner has had as many as 10 blocks in a game against UT. Many have been thunderous in nature. On Tuesday, she had two. Neither one was memorable. She also went more than 14 minutes between baskets at one point.
Sims, meanwhile, has scored as many as 27 points against UT. On this occasion, she took five shots and scored eight, dishing out eight assists instead.
Baylor's supporting cast has shown more life since a 71-69 loss to Stanford on Nov. 16. In that game, Sims played four minutes because of a hamstring injury.
"The pieces are there," Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said. "Probably more depth than last year's team. But we're not there yet."
Could've fooled the Lady Vols.
"Now we see as a team what we need to go against and what it's like to be a top three team in the country,'' UT sophomore forward Cierra Burdick said.
Burdick sounded as if she had taken a mental snapshot of the one-sided evening for future reference.
The most stark image
was Tennessee's offense, heretofore one of the nation's best, being throttled by Baylor's defense. The Lady Vols continued the pattern of their previous four losses to the Lady Bears, getting a high volume of shots (75) but connecting on just 29.3 percent of their attempts. They shot 21.7 percent on 3-pointers (5-for-23).
Playing against Griner, freshman forward Bashaara Graves failed to score in double figures for the first time this season, scoring six points. Burdick and Taber Spani, who combined to shoot 12 for 20 from the floor against Texas on Sunday and score 29 points, were a collective 2 for 18 against Baylor, good for just five points.
The lone Lady Vol who looked comfortable against the Lady Bears was senior guard Kamiko Williams. She came off the bench to score 15 points on a team-high seven field goals. She also grabbed 10 rebounds and recorded six assists while not committing a turnover.
Knowing that her team will be young next year, Mulkey empathized with Tennessee head coach Holly Warlick.
"I know what position she's in," Mulkey said. "I'm going to be in that position next year. You have to keep it simple for young players but you want to play to their strengths. She's just trying to grow those young players and help them compete at a young age."
Warlick said she was hopeful about having one of those young players — sophomore center Isabelle Harrison — back for Saturday's home game against No. 1 Stanford. She sat out Tuesday's game after suffering a sprained ankle against Texas.