WACO, TEXAS (AP) - Brittney Griner and her teammates didn’t like what they saw on film this week.
They were reviewing their last game against Texas A&M, a loss in an NCAA regional final last March. The Aggies, who had lost eight in a row against Baylor, went on to win their first national championship.
Griner said the top-ranked Lady Bears were “disgusted and mad” as they took another look at the loss.
“It’s a game everybody has been ready to play since we lost to them last year,” Griner said. “Looking at that film … it was stuff that we did to ourselves, and we realized that.”
Baylor (24-0, 11-0 Big 12), the only remaining undefeated team in major college basketball, get its long-awaited rematch Saturday in what coach Kim Mulkey insists will be SEC-bound Texas A&M’s last trip to Waco.
When Mulkey was asked before the season if she would schedule the 15th-ranked Aggies (17-5, 8-3) in a non-conference game after they leave the Big 12, she used the comparison of a broken marriage.
“If a man wants to divorce me and says our relationship has no value to him, and then he asks me if he can sleep with me, the answer is, `No!’,” Mulkey said then.
Her feelings haven’t changed 3 1/2 months later, even though the pending move by Texas A&M and Missouri to the SEC after this season was clearly driven by football.
“About being the last time in Waco, as far as I’m concerned, it will be. I’m not going to play them,” Mulkey said. “Speaking for myself, this will be the last time that they’ll come to Waco unless there’s an NCAA tournament in the future and they get placed here or something.”
Last year, the Big 12’s top two teams were seeded 1-2 in the same NCAA regional after Baylor had already beaten the Aggies three times during the season. Mulkey didn’t like that, either, and she was later reprimanded by the NCAA for complaining about it.
Texas A&M jumped out a 7-0 lead in the regional final and led throughout in a 58-46 victory to get to its first NCAA Final Four
“It’s going to be huge motivation for them because we knocked them out of a national championship — because I think they would have won. I think they were that good,” Aggies coach Gary Blair said. “But last year we were pretty doggone good too. (This year), we’re still a work in progress.”
The Aggies are different this season after the graduations of All-America post player Danielle Adams and point guard Sydney Colson. But they have won four in a row and seven of their last eight.
Baylor, which has won a school-record 36 consecutive home games, is winning by an average margin of 30 points a game this season. The Lady Bears are 6-0 against ranked teams, including wins at home over second-ranked Notre Dame and third-ranked Connecticut.
“They’ve just earned it. That same team from Baylor is going to be back next year. They don’t lose a soul and you might as well get ready for it,” Blair said. “Even though we’re changing conferences, we’ll see each other in the NCAA or somewhere down the line and rivals will continue.”
Blair was an assistant coach for two national championships at Louisiana Tech in the early 1980s when Mulkey was the point guard there.
While he knows it will take time to get over the hard feelings of A&M’s move, which he believes is more about recruiting than anything, Blair said he expects “eventually everyone will get over those feelings, whether I’m the coach here, or Kim’s the coach at Baylor.”
For now, even with all the other motivating factors particular to facing Texas A&M, the Lady Bears are focused on their goal of staying undefeated and winning a Big 12 title on the way to what they hope is their second national championship. They won the 2005 title and got to the Final Four again two years ago in Griner’s freshman season.
“There’s a lot of different things going into this game,” Baylor post player Destiny Williams said. “It’s another Big 12 game, a rivalry game, especially getting beat last year. It’s making a statement, a lot of things. It will be an emotional, hard-fought battle and war out there.”
And it will be played out before a sold-out crowd at the Ferrell Center.
“Games like Saturday are what you play basketball for,” Aggies junior center Kelsey Bone said, “and are the reason that we’ve been playing since we were 10.”
AP Sports Writer Kristie Rieken contributed to this report from College Station, Texas.
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