By Jerry Hill, Baylor Bear Foundation
Despite being held nearly 25 points below their national-best scoring average, the second-ranked Baylor Lady Bears continued their mostly uncontested run through the Big 12 Wednesday night with a 68-42 win over Iowa State.
Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly joked, “I think they’re bigger than our men’s team” and went so far as to predict a Baylor-Connecticut championship game at the Final Four in Dallas.
“That’s by far the best team we’ve played, and it’s not even close,” said Fennelly, whose team fell to 10-8 overall and 1-6 in the Big 12. “I told my wife, this reminds me of the (2012 national) championship team. That was a great team, Brittney (Griner) and those guys. But, there’s nothing they don’t have.”
Baylor’s inside duo of Nina Davis and Kalani Brown missed just shots between them (15-of-17) and scored 17 and 16 points, respectively, as the Lady Bears (18-1, 7-0) won their 16th game overall and 24th in a row in league play.
“They want you to play their tempo, and I think we did for the most part, and that’s because they made us,” Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said. “They made transition baskets, they missed up their defense, and we were just never in the flor or had continuity. So, give those guys credit. But, you’ve got to give our guys credit. That team makes eight to 10 threes just about every game, and I thought we were very good defensively.”
One of the defensive stars, in particular, was senior guard Alexis Jones. She struggled with her shot, going 0-for-4 from outside the arc and 2-for-12 overall for a season-low four points. But she had a career-high 11 rebounds and held the Cyclones’ leading scorer, Seanna Johnson, scoreless for the first time in her career.
“I just didn’t want her to take me off the dribble or give her any open looks,” Jones said.
Mulkey said Fennelly changed his lineup, starting 6-foot senior forward Heather Bowe instead of 5-9 freshman guard TeeTee Starks. And that’s why Jones drew the defensive assignment on Johnson.
“On the defensive end of the floor, that’s hard to defend, because our kids are big,” Mulkey said. “(Alexis) Prince getting over screens and pulling Kalani away. . . . I just thought we worked hard on the defensive end.”
Baylor’s defense did struggle to defend two of the Cyclones. Jadda Buckley and Bridgett Carleton combined for 32 of Iowa State’s 42 points, hitting five 3-pointers and hitting 11-of-27 from the floor.
But, Johnson was 0-for-7 and Meredith Burkhall hit just 1-of-11, combining to miss all six shots from outside the arc.
“Baylor does that to a lot of players,” Fennelly said. “They aren’t the first two and won’t be the last two to walk out of here with a lot of goose eggs on their stat sheets.”
The Lady Bears struggled out of the gate, hitting just 7-of-16 in the first quarter and leading by just three, 15-12.
Backup posts Lauren Cox and Khadijah Cave gave Baylor a spark in the second quarter, scoring eight straight points, as the Lady Bears stretched it to a double-digit lead, 31-19, at the break.
“To their credit, they didn’t panic,” Fennelly said. “They ran their stuff, they pounded it inside on us. Instead of maybe a third-round knockout, they were just like bang, bang, bang, and finally we couldn’t answer the bell in the 10th round or something.”
Davis turned in one of her best performances of the year, hitting 7-of-8 from the floor and 3-of-3 from the line. She also had four boards, three assists and a block in 27 minutes.
“Just came out and made my first shot and just wanted to be spark for the team,” Davis said. “I knew they were going to come out in some type of junk defense and they were going to have a lot of energy. So, I wanted to be the one who gave us the spark tonight.”
Cox had her fourth straight double-digit night with 12 points, while Cave had seven points, four rebounds, one steal and an assist in just 12 minutes. The foursome of Davis, Brown, Cox and Cave were a combined 22-of-30 from the field, outscoring the Cyclones, 52-10, in the paint and doubling them up on the boards, 50-25.
Baylor completes a two-game home stand with a matchup against No. 24/23 West Virginia(15-4, 3-4) at 1 p.m. Sunday. The Mountaineers had lost four of their last five games before holding off Kansas, 62-51, Wednesday night in Lawrence.