WACO - For No. 1 Baylor, it was just a second exhibition before beginning defense of its 2012 NCAA Division I women's basketball title.
But for Tarleton State, it was the opportunity of a lifetime.
Because of a cancellation on Baylor's exhibition schedule, Tarleton was invited to the Ferrell Center to face the Lady Bears, who won the Big 12 before dominating the NCAA Tournament on their way to a 40-0 record last year.
"This was a great experience for us," said Tarleton head coach and 1,000-game winner Ronnie Hearne of facing the champs in front of 7,622 in attendance. "We have great crowds and a great atmosphere at Tarleton, but it's nothing like being here in this atmosphere and playing the national champions."
The TexAnns, defending champions of the Division II Lone Star Conference, managed to keep it close early, but Baylor, which elected not to play reigning Wade Trophy (awarded to national player of the year) award winner Brittney Griner, pulled away for a 92-49 win.
Tarleton did have the game's leading scorer and rebounder in junior center Kiara Wright, who was second-team all LSC last season. She finished with 18 points and 12 rebounds after reaching double figures in both categories with more than 10 minutes to go.
"Kiara played big, but she always does," Hearne said. "She's a competitor and a talented girl."
The Lady Bears scored 15 straight points in a little more than four minutes to break open what was a 10-9 game after a Peyton Adamson fast-break layup almost six minutes in.
It was 25-11 after Tarleton's next basket, which didn't come until Wright banked one in underneath with 9:45 left in the half. She scored the game's next points just before the nine-minute mark, but the 12 point deficit was as close as Tarleton would get.
Baylor had another big run before the break, ending a string of five straight Tarleton points with 21 of their own to lead 52-17. The TexAnns then scored five straight again with a 3-ball from Keyra Johnson and another bucket in the paint from Wright. The Lady Bears were up 54-22 at the break.
Tarleton's 49 points were more than 16 of Baylor's opponents scored last season. Of course, they had to face Griner. The TexAnns did hold two early leads of 2-0 and 4-2.
True freshman Keyra Johnson scored seven points for Tarleton, and Morgan Ashmore added six. The TexAnns turned the ball over 35 times against Baylor's pressure, which was headed up by Odyssey Sims with seven of the team's 24 steals.
The Lady Bears had five scorers in double figures, led by Brooklyn Pope with 16. Kimetria Hayden scored 15 and Sims 12. Jordan Madden and Mariah Chandler each added 10.
Tarleton was 20-47 from the floor for 42.6 percent. Baylor was an impressive 37-63 for 58.7 percent. The Lady Bears out-rebounded the TexAnns 37-25 and turned the ball over 18 times.
"Baylor has been awful nice to us; they really took care of us," Hearne said. "It's the first time I've met (Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey) and had the chance to talk to her. They showed us around their weight room, practice gym, offices, dressing rooms; it's just out of this world.
"I'm thankful for the opportunity," he continued. " A lot of people think I'm crazy for doing this, but I don't think so. It didn't help Baylor to play us, but it helps us. We saw some positive things from our players, and we saw some negative things. We're going to learn a lot from this game."
Mulkey, however, said Tarleton did help Baylor just by showing up for the game.
"Coach Hearne is a trooper," Mulkey said. "We were running around Friday after receiving an email from the president of Shaw University saying they weren't coming; first time that's happened to me as a coach. We called Coach Hearne and he was gracious enough to come play."
The national champion coach was impressed by the TexAnns.
"They're going to do very well; they're well coached, they're picked to win their league and I'm pulling for Tarleton State," Mulkey said. "Their coach has my respect and so does their program."
Mulkey went on to joke with local media that Griner didn't play because she is redshirting.
"Put that in headlines across the country," she quipped. "No, it was just a coach's decision."
Tarleton opens its regular season at Wisdom Gym next Monday, facing Texas Wesleyan at 6 p.m.
Follow Brad Keith on Twitter @etsports