COLUMBIA — Baylor center Brittney Griner spent a few minutes during warmups Wednesday practicing her slam dunks at Mizzou Arena. At 6 feet 8 inches, Griner is one of only a handful of women's basketball players who can dunk the ball.
Another is Candace Parker, who currently plays for the WNBA's Los Angeles Sparks.
"I don't have the opportunity (to dunk) sometimes," Griner said. "Everyone says, 'You're 6-8, you should be able to dunk,' but it's really not that easy. It's hard dunking with three people on you."
Although Griner never got a chance to dunk the ball in No. 1 Baylor's 71-41 victory over Missouri on Wednesday night, her notable height advantage was undeniable.
Baylor's offensive philosophy at times was quite simple: Get the ball into Griner's hands. Often, she stood 5 or 6 feet away from the basket, feet planted, not moving and surrounded by Missouri defenders 6-2 BreAnna Brock and 6-3 Christine Flores. At one point in the first half, she was even triple-teamed.
It didn't matter.
Griner, who scored the first eight points of the game for Baylor, simply raised her hands straight up in the air, waiting for the ball. Baylor players would pass it high enough where only she could catch it. When she came down with the ball, Griner would spin around in the same spot, hold the ball high over her head and lay it into the basket.
Griner finished with 18 points.
Brock and Griner spent the majority of the game playing head to head. When she was on the court, Griner held Brock, who averages 14.9 points per game, to only three points. Brock scored five points in a row with about 12 minutes left in the second half when Griner was taken out of the game for good, but by then Baylor's lead was so big it made little difference.
"It's a tough task," Brock said of guarding Griner. "Her wingspan just adds to that height. But I go out there with a mindset that, 'Yes, I'm guarding someone that's really tall, but I know what I have to do to contain her.' I don't think about her being that size; I'm her size in my mind when I'm guarding her."
Despite having the Preseason Player of the Year in Griner, being the No. 1-ranked team in the country mandates more than just one dominant player. Four Baylor players, including Griner, scored in double figures, while Missouri didn't have a player that scored more than eight, marking the second time this season Baylor didn't allow a player from the opposition to score 10 points or more.
"They've got great athleticism," Missouri coach Robin Pingeton said. "They've got quickness. They can guard on the perimeter. They can score in a variety of ways."