Baylor senior center Brittney Griner deserves every bit of recognition she receives. At 6-foot-8, she is unlike any player that has ever played women’s college basketball.
Griner would have likely been a member of the 2012 U.S. Olympic team had she not removed her name from consideration. She is the reigning consensus national Player of the Year. She is ninth all-time in Division I history in scoring (2,975) and first in blocks (695) and has 13 dunks to her credit.
However, when No. 3 UConn hosts No. 1 Baylor tonight at the XL Center, it is 5-9 All-American junior guard Odyssey Sims who just might be the most dangerous player on the floor for the Lady Bears.
“Everyone’s going to talk about Brittney and me, but Odyssey’s a great, great player on that team,’’ UConn center Stefanie Dolson said. “She is that player that kind of makes their team go, and the energy behind them. Kelly (Faris), Kaleena (Mosqueda-Lewis), Bria (Hartley) are all going to just have to do a really, really great job of defending her and keeping her to a minimum of shots and opportunities to kind of keep their offense going. I have complete trust and faith in them that they will do a great job of defending her and making everything that she does extremely hard and tough and just not letting her kind of get momentum.’’
Sims is averaging 12.4 points, 2.5 rebounds, 5.7 assists and 3.0 steals in 30.2 minutes this season. She leads the team in assists, steals and minutes and has a 2.6 assist-to-turnover ratio.
How important is Sims to the Lady Bears? Their only misstep to this point this season is a 71-69 loss to Stanford Nov. 16 in Hawaii. Sims played only four minutes in that game due to a hamstring injury.
“The fact that she’s got the ball in her hands an awful lot. She gets the ball to the right people at the right time,’’ UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “She makes their offense a lot better because you can’t just concentrate all your attention on Brittney Griner because Odyssey will make a play and will make all that strategy worthless. So, yeah, I think an awful lot (you have to account for Sims). And as much defensively as it is offensively as well. She’s a really, really tough on-the-ball defender. And I guess you can be when you’ve got that shot blocker behind you. You can take all the chances you want and you can be real aggressive because any mistake you make they clean it up pretty easily.’’
Sims has burned UConn in the past, averaging 20.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 3.5 steals in two career games against the Huskies. She finished with 23 points, four rebounds, three assists and four steals in 39 minutes in a 66-61 win over UConn at home last season.
“I think that is a challenge,’’ Hartley said of containing Sims. “She’s the engine that makes their team go. So you want to be able to slow her up and just control the tempo and play at the pace we want to play.’’
Said Mosqueda-Lewis: “We just have to make sure we know where she is every second she’s on the court. If she does have the ball, we have to make sure we are pressuring her and not making anything easy for her.’’
Said Faris: “Our biggest thing is keeping her in front of us. If we take too many risks on her … She’s quick. She’s quicker than a lot of guards out there and she’s a smart player so she can kind of read where she needs to go. I think our biggest challenge is just to keep her in front.’’