WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: Grinding out Griner

Amanda Zimmerman, forward, takes a shot during the game against Baylor on Saturday, Feb. 13 at Hilton Coliseum. Zimmerman scored 15 points during the Cyclones 69-45 win over the Lady Bears. Photo: Logan Gaedke/Iowa State Daily

Logan Gaedke

Amanda Zimmerman, forward, takes a shot during the game against Baylor on Saturday, Feb. 13 at Hilton Coliseum. Zimmerman scored 15 points during the Cyclone’s 69-45 win over the Lady Bears. Photo: Logan Gaedke/Iowa State Daily

Kayci Woodley

The only thing Iowa State and Baylor had in common Saturday at Hilton Coliseum was pink uniforms. On the Cyclones’ Pink Zone day to raise breast cancer awareness, the Bears were also decked out, but it was Iowa State’s energy that matched the emotion and anticipation surrounding the event.

“I think on a day where there is so much heartfelt emotion in the building based on what the event was about, I think our players matched that with their enthusiasm and commitment,” said ISU coach Bill Fennelly. “It was a great day for the cause and certainly a great day for our team.”

No. 20 Iowa State upset No. 15 Baylor on Saturday in front of 11,210 Cyclone fans, the second-highest home attendance of the season. As usual, the Hilton crowd was intense, which may have been the cause for bobbles by the Bears.

“I thought the tone for our game was set when we got the first possession and shot an air ball wide open,” said Baylor coach Kim Mulkey. “And from there it went downhill, I don’t think we were ever in the game.”

As Baylor’s performance spiraled downward, the intensity in Hilton continued to rise.

Early in the game, the Bears had shot four shots, and three didn’t even hit the backboard.

Saturday not only marked Iowa State’s annual Pink Zone day, but also marked one of the games women’s basketball fans likely circled on their calendars. To many, Baylor means Brittney Griner.

Griner, the top-ranked recruit out of high school, and, most recently, the Big 12’s Player of the Week, can dunk the ball with ease and recorded triple-doubles in her last two games.

But spectators that hadn’t heard of the 6-foot-8-inch Baylor center may have been left unaware of Griner’s talent. Her first two points of the game came from the free-throw line 11 minutes into the first half. Griner’s first real bucket of the night came only after ISU freshman Anna Prins stumbled and fell in the lane, giving Griner an easy layup on the right side.

“Brittney Griner is the most unique player in the country, but I think if you were just a casual fan walking around the building today, the three Iowa State freshman post players did their part,” Fennelly said.

Griner may be used to high amounts of pressure in the paint, but she wasn’t used to Iowa State’s defense. If the guards weren’t stepping in to help with the double team in the lane, the freshman post players were slowing her down one on one.

“Us post players tried our best down in the low post; the guards’ double teaming was amazing tonight,” said freshman post Amanda Zimmerman. “We held her to 10 points, and I think that was the biggest key of the game, just not [letting] her get on a roll.”

The Cyclones held Griner to a season low in conference play of just 10 points, just short of the 12 she posted against then-No. 13 Oklahoma in just her second conference game of her career.

“She was definitely the biggest focus on the game tonight,” Zimmerman said. “We just knew as post players we had to step up and take the challenge.”

Griner also finished with seven rebounds and four blocks, a solid day for most, but below her averages in all categories. Any time Griner touched the ball, it seemed she had only a split second to decide what to do with it before two Cyclone jerseys swarmed her.

“Every game, two or three players — it seems like they send the whole team on me or something,” Griner said. “You just kind of get used to it, I guess,”

While Griner and the rest of the Bears sported all-pink jerseys with green trim, just as Iowa State sported white jerseys with pink trim, the two teams couldn’t have played more opposite games.

The Cyclones outrebounded the Bears 39–33, and Baylor committed three more turnovers Saturday than Iowa State.

Leading the boards was freshman post Chelsea Poppens, who finished with 14 rebounds, nine of which were defensive. Iowa State was hot from beyond the arc, and Baylor could barely get a shot off inside the paint, compiling a dismal 18 points at halftime.

“The last thing I told them when we left the locker room was how this is a great win for us, but I hope it’s not the highlight of our season,” Fennelly said. “Let’s make it another starting point. Those are things that build your program and build your career, build the memories that we have.”