By STEPHEN HAWKINS, Associated Press
DALLAS (AP) — With the NCAA tournament right around the corner, maybe this was just the kind of reminder defending national champion Baylor needed of how to hold on in a tight game.
Brittney Griner and the top-ranked Lady Bears might not be able to overcome these sort of mistakes as they get deeper into March.
Baylor had a series of uncharacteristic turnovers that fueled a furious late charge by Oklahoma State, but the Lady Bears never trailed in a 77-69 victory Sunday in the Big 12 tournament semifinals.
"It was good for us to a certain extent," Brooklyn Pope said.
The Lady Bears (31-1) have won 48 consecutive Big 12 regular-season and tournament games — most by a large margin. They have gone through the last two regular seasons without a league loss and now play in their third consecutive conference tournament title game Monday night against No. 2 seed Iowa State (23-7).
"We've been beating teams by 30-plus. We've been getting bored out there sometimes," point guard Odyssey Sims said. "Having a close game like this wakes us up, makes us realize that just because we're the No. 1 seed doesn't mean we can't be beat."
Griner had 30 points, 10 rebounds and seven blocks while Sims and Pope each had 12 points for Baylor, which overcame a season-high 24 turnovers — 18 in the second half that helped keep the Cowgirls (21-10) in the game.
Destiny Williams added 10 points for Baylor and Sims had seven assists.
Toni Young had 22 points and 11 rebounds for Oklahoma State. Liz Donohoe added 20 points and Tiffany Bias scored 19.
Oklahoma State trailed by 17 after Sims converted a nifty three-point play with 15 minutes left. The Cowgirls cut it to 72-69 with 1:34 remaining when Bias converted a steal into a breakaway layup, but those were their last points of the day.
"Very proud of our basketball team," Oklahoma State coach Jim Littell said. "We went toe-to-toe with the No. 1 team in the nation. ... It's something that's a step in the right direction for our program. We can build off this."
With the shot clock running down early in the second half, Sims made a move and pushed the ball toward the rim. The ball went in as she was fouled, prompting Baylor coach Kim Mulkey to emphatically pump her arm to go with a leg kick.
The Lady Bears led 54-37 when Sims made the free throw for a three-point play.
Baylor still had a comfortable lead with 5½ minutes left after Griner scored inside to make it 69-56. But the Lady Bears committed three turnovers in less than a minute to spark seven points in a row by the Cowgirls.
After Donohoe made a free throw for Oklahoma State, Kendra Suttles had a steal that led to a layup by Bias.
Griner then committed a turnover that led to a jumper by Brittney Martin. A turnover by Sims led to a pair of free throws by Young that cut it to 69-63.
"We had some very uncharacteristic turnovers, which is a sign that I've got to do a better job of execution, making sure the right people have the ball in the hands, or there was a little bit of losing your composure," Mulkey said.
Still, that is highly unusual for a Baylor team that features five seniors, four of them starters. Sims, a junior, was an All-American last season.
"We didn't play as if we were juniors or seniors," Sims said. "We turned the ball over when it was critical. That could have lost us the game if we were playing any other team like UConn or Stanford."
Baylor has won 29 in a row overall since a loss to Stanford during the first week of the season.
Even after Griner converted a three-point play with 2:36 left to push the lead back to 72-63, Baylor had four more turnovers in a span of 1:01, including Bias' steal and layup. But Jordan Madden hit a 3-pointer for the Lady Bears with 38 seconds left.
Griner had 20 points by halftime, then didn't even get off a shot in the first 9½ minutes of the second half. She didn't score again until there was 10:19 left in the game.
Baylor jumped out to a 32-15 lead in the first 11 minutes after Williams made two free throws.
The Cowgirls then went on a 10-2 run over the next 2½ minutes, leading to a Baylor timeout.
Bias banked in a 3-pointer before Griner, surrounded by three defenders, scored inside. Bias then made a basket, drew a charge against Baylor freshman Alexis Prince and made another 3-pointer. When Young scored over Griner, it was 34-25 with 6:35 left in the half.
Griner, the 6-foot-8 star who has already been an All-American twice, had 14 points, five rebounds and five blocked shots in the first 11½ minutes. That included a three-point play that made it 26-13.
But Oklahoma State didn't allow Griner to keep up that dominating pace.
"Just playing together as a team. Our coaches had a really good (scouting report) for us," Bias said. "Just confusing them. I think it got to them when we were close to them throughout the whole game. I think by trading defenses, just sitting on Griner, trying to double her, I think that really confused them."
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