By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Foundation
Nothing personal, but Oklahoma State coach Jim Littell hopes he’s seen the last of Nina Davis.
“She’s been here eight years, hasn’t she?” Littell asked in Saturday’s postgame press conference. “I’m glad she’s done. That’s a compliment. She’s an outstanding player.”
While she’s been more of a complementary piece for fourth-ranked Baylor this season, Davis looked a lot like the player that’s been a two-time All-American and three-time All-Big 12 pick in Saturday’s game against the visiting Cowgirls.
On a night when guards Alexis Jones, Alexis Prince and Kristy Wallace struggled, the 5-foot-11 senior forward recorded just her second double-double of the season with 23 points and 10 rebounds as the Lady Bears (25-2, 14-1) coasted to an 89-67 win and grabbed a share of the Big 12 lead.
“She’s just a unique athlete that is so bouncy, so quick off the floor,” Littell said of Davis, who was 10-of-15 from the floor. “I’ve been in this league 13 years, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen somebody miss their own shot and get it back so many times. . . . It’s just a matchup nightmare having to guard her with somebody that’s slower, because she’ll drive baseline, she’ll spin-dribble. Again, I congratulated her for graduating.”
Sophomore post Kalani Brown was also a defensive nightmare for the Cowgirls (14-12, 4-11), scoring 19 points in 21 minutes and adding 12 rebounds for her team-best seventh double-double of the season.
The 6-foot-7 Brown also made things tough on 6-4 OSU center Kalyee Jensen, who come in as the Big 12’s leading scorer (18.6 ppg) and rebounder (10.6). Jensen had just seven points and seven rebounds, hitting 3-of-16 from the field, before fouling out with 7:58 left.
“I think our size prevents (Jensen) from shooting her little Jack Sikma fade-away,” Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said.
Brown said Jensen is “a lot to deal with on both ends of the floor. She really pushes you physically.”
“I look at it as an accomplishment, she’s a very good player,” Brown said of Jensen, who had 11 points on 4-of-16 shooting in Baylor’s 86-50 win last month at Oklahoma State. “I’m just happy I did good both times. Just remembering what I did last time and trying to stay out of foul trouble helped me.”
Unlike the first meeting, when Baylor built a 27-point lead by halftime, the Cowgirls were much more competitive and used their 3-point shooting to stay within striking distance. Brown and Davis combined for 26 points to help the Lady Bears take a 43-31 lead into the break.
Kari Wheeler, who hit five 3-pointers and scored 18 points, drained a pair of long-distance shots in the first two minutes of the third quarter to get OSU back within single digits, 45-37.
But, the Cowgirls would get no closer.
Jones answered Wheeler’s second trey with one of her own, stretching the lead back to double digits for good. The Lady Bears were up 16 going into the fourth and took their biggest lead, 79-53, on a pair of free throws by freshman Lauren Cox with 4:12 left.
With Davis and Brown leading the way, Baylor dominated the boards, 57-33, and outscored the Cowgirls 54-20 in the paint.
“I don’t think we had it in the game plan, it was just how it happened,” Davis said of the Lady Bears’ success at taking it inside. “They were fronting Kalani, and she was able to get in front of them and made some shots. We just want her to be aggressive. I was able to get myself going, and it just happened that way. I definitely felt I was in a rhythm out there, just trying to be aggressive and be the spark my team needs.”
The Lady Bears also got sparks off the bench from Dekeiya Cohen and Natalie Chou. While the starting backcourt trio of Jones, Prince and Wallace scored just 12 points on 3-for-14 shooting, Cohen and Chou combined for 16 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists.
“Late in the year, Natalie and Dekeiya have fresh legs, and they were sparks for us today,” Mulkey said. “Dekeiya is one of the best offensive rebounders we have. She’s extremely strong. She went in there and defended well, she altered some shots, she got some boards. She was very good today, as was Natalie.”
With eighth-ranked Texas (21-5, 14-1) getting upset by No. 19 Oklahoma, 74-73, Baylor moved into a tie for first in the Big 12 standings going into Monday’s 8 p.m. matchup against the Longhorns in Austin. Texas won the first meeting, 85-79, two weeks ago in Waco, snapping the Lady Bears’ 21-game winning streak.
“I asked (the players in the locker room) if they knew who we played next. And they knew,” Mulkey said. “You’ve got three games left, and all three are extremely important if you want to win a conference championship.”