Baylor's imposing frontline was the perfect complement for the Bears' biggest weapon: point guard Angela Tisdale.
The 5-foot-7 Tisdale scored 26 points and her taller teammates dominated on the boards in Baylor's 88-67 victory over Fresno State on Saturday in the opening round of the women's NCAA tournament. "She's the key to our offense," said Baylor junior forward Rachel Allison of Tisdale's floor leadership.
Baylor (25-6), the 2005 national champion, never trailed against the Bulldogs (22-11), who were first- and short-time visitors to the tournament.
The No. 3-seeded Bears, with Tisdale scoring seven points, took control with a 17-2 run that put Baylor up 27-11 with just under 9 minutes left in the first half. The closest the No. 14 seeded Bulldogs got after that was 27-21 on the heels of a 10-1 run.
Senior guard Tierre Wilson scored 23 points to lead Fresno State, and freshman Emma Andrews added 15. But the Bulldogs never got their 3-point reliant offense untracked against Baylor's defense.
"The difference in the game was we guarded them," Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said. "They only made three 3s and they'd been averaging eight a game. We weren't going to let them get any open looks."
Defensively, the Bulldogs, winners of 20 of their last 22 games during their run to the WAC regular season and tournament titles, couldn't stay with the taller Bears inside and couldn't slow the speedy Tisdale, who added six assists.
She consistently broke down the Bulldogs' defense with her drives into the lane.
"She can shoot the 3s and they have to get out and guard her, but she is quick off the bounce too, so they have to stay down," said Allison, who finished with 21 points. "She's got both options available to her and when she does get to the paint, it opens up everybody else."
Baylor, making its fifth straight appearance in the NCAA tournament, had a 49-40 edge in rebounding, but the final margin was not indicative of the Bears' dominance inside, which included 23 offensive rebounds.
"A different player would step up and grab a rebound when they needed to," Fresno State coach Adrian Wiggins said. "We rotated on defense really well. A shot would go up and we wouldn't have anybody there."
Freshman reserve Melissa Jones and 6-foot-3 center Danielle Wilson both had double-doubles. Jones finished with 14 points and 14 rebounds and Wilson had 10 points and 13 rebounds.
Jones played more like a senior with her aggressive play inside and by halftime had eight rebounds.
"She was a beast," said Allison. "There would be a pack of three or four girls and she got them (rebounds) all. She didn't play like a freshman at all."
Allison scored 14 of her points in the second half. That and the Bears' postseason experience, proved too much for a Fresno State team that had three freshmen starters.
"That's half of it," Tisdale said of the confident mode the Bears have established from their string of NCAA tournament appearances. "The other half is scouting reports and our players making plays."
The easy win ended Baylor's three-game skid, its longest since the 2000-01 season.
Fresno State, which hit a school record 259 3-pointers this season, was just 3-of-17 from long range.
"They did a great job of staying out on the perimeter," Wiggins said. "We thought if we used our offense and made two or three passes, they would break down and collapse. They did a good job of not doing that."