Bench makes impact in Baylor win

March, 20, 2011
03/20/11
7:55
PM ET

One of the things about the NCAA tournament first round for the No. 1 seeds is that those openers usually are quite different from any contest the teams have played for a while.

The No. 1s are coming off conference seasons where, even if they ran the table in the league, they usually did get some challenges. But often as not, the disparity between the No. 1 and No. 16 seeds in the NCAA field is such that playing these games is a mere formality.

Then that, in itself, becomes the challenge.

Baylor, the No. 1 seed in the Dallas Regional, lost just one game to a Big 12 foe this season. But the Lady Bears went into every league game knowing that it wasn't totally inconceivable for them to lose.

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Kimetria Hayden
AP Photo/Tony GutierrezKimetria Hayden came off the bench for 12 points on 6-of-8 shooting for Baylor.

However, Sunday at the Ferrell Center in Waco, Texas, it basically was inconceivable for Baylor to fall to Prairie View. To that end, the starters knew they would have somewhat abbreviated nights, and the reserves knew it was up to them not to let the game get sloppy or lackadaisical when they were in.

For the most part, Baylor's starters and bench did OK with all that in a 66-30 victory. Considering Prairie View had the lowest first-half point total in tournament history -- eight -- it would have been pretty difficult for the Lady Bears to come out after the break growling all that fiercely.

And their shooting percentage did drop, from 59.3 percent in the first half to 32.1 percent in the second. But individually, there were two very noteworthy performances off the bench by players who could be very important for Baylor in later tournament games.

Kimetria Hayden, who came in and gave Baylor a lift after the team got off to a slow start in the Big 12 title game against Texas A&M last weekend, had 12 points on 6-of-8 shooting against Prairie View.

And Brooklyn Pope tied starting center Brittney Griner for the team lead with 17 points Sunday. Pope, who sat out last season after transferring from Rutgers, also had seven rebounds.

Pope has started 17 of Baylor's 34 games. Another sophomore transfer, Destiny Williams from Illinois, was eligible at semester break and also has started 17 games. Both Williams and Pope are 6-foot-1 forwards who can crash the boards and play strong defense. At this point, Williams is the more consistent player, but Pope has had moments in games where you see how valuable she can be.

So while Sunday's game didn't reveal anything at all about Baylor not previously known, it did put on display the depth of the team and the Lady Bears' ability to stay pretty plugged in to the mission at hand. Even when it's a piece of cake.

Mechelle Voepel joined ESPN.com in 1996 and covers women's college hoops, the WNBA, the LPGA, and additional collegiate sports for espnW.

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