By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Foundation
"That's two big women in there, getting after it," Mulkey said. "That looked like two big ol' offensive linemen in the Super Bowl."
Wednesday's matchup at the Ferrell Center was like Oklahoma State's Super Bowl. The No. 23/24 Cowgirls gave the third-ranked Baylor Lady Bears their second straight test and stayed within striking distance into the fourth quarter.
But just like Sunday's 83-72 road win at No. 20 West Virginia, Baylor (20-1, 10-0) was able to pull away late for a 77-64 victory that kept the Lady Bears two games up on No. 8 Texas and dropped OSU (15-6, 6-4) back to fourth in the Big 12 standings.
"I thought we came in here and competed with one of the best teams in the country," OSU head coach Jim Littell said. "We had our opportunities and played pretty even for three quarters-plus. But, when you play Baylor, you have to be almost perfect, and we didn't hit some shots we needed to hit."
This is nothing new, but the Lady Bears are getting everyone's best shot every night.
"I welcome that," Mulkey said. "When you see Baylor across your jersey, that's respect and that's what you've built here. You want people to respect you. I certainly don't want to be on the other end where thy think you're not a good program and they don't respect you. Good coaches in this league, different styles, we just have to make sure we prepare."
Just like the West Virginia game, Baylor had to grind this one out.
"I look at (our games) as something we can learn from," Mulkey said. "Just win. Close it out and make big shots and do what you need to do on the defensive end. And when you're struggling in some areas because of what the other team might be doing to you, just grind it out, just keep playing."
That's what senior point guard Kristy Wallace did. After scoring 52 points combined in her last two games and earning a nod as the National Player of the Week by espnW, she scuffled on the offensive end against the Cowgirls, hitting just 4-of-15 from the field and scoring nine points.
But, she dished off a season-high nine assists, added one steal and a block and had just two turnovers in 40 minutes. And maybe more importantly, she hounded Big 12 leading scorer Loryn Goodwin all night and held her to 10 points on 4-of-19 shooting overall and 0-for-3 outside the arc.
"I've got to get her some help on the perimeter defensively," Mulkey said of Wallace, who held Goodwin more than 11 points below her scoring average. "(Goodwin) is an unbelievable scorer, and to think that Kristy guarded her 40 minutes and she only had 10 points. Kristy missing the layups that she did is uncharacteristic, but you've got to go back and think, `What was she doing on the defensive end?' We just never could give her help."
Particularly with Wallace's offensive struggles, the Lady Bears leaned heavily on their post duo of Brown and 6-4 sophomore Lauren Cox, along with senior forward Dekeiya Cohen. That trio combined to score 57 of the team's 77 points and added 34 rebounds, seven blocks and six assists.
"You get frustrated at Kalani and you get frustrated at Cox, but I sure am glad they're on my team when the game's over and you look at their stats," Mulkey said. "I just stay after them and stayed after them, because I want them to be just so dominant. And as good as they are now, they're just a junior and a sophomore having to guard two seniors tonight that took them away from the basket."
That was a mismatch at times for Brown and Cox trying to defend Jensen, 6-3 Mandy Coleman and 6-2 LaTashia Jones, who were a combined 7-of-13 from outside the arc.
"We started to switch at the end so they wouldn't pop, because that was really killing us," said Cox, who finished with 23 points, nine rebounds and four blocks. "Goodwin is so quick, so we started to switch that at the end. I'm comfortable doing that. I think that's one of the things I've really improved at."
The Lady Bears struggled early, missing 10 of their first 11 layup attempts, shooting just 37.5 percent in the first half and clinging to a six-point lead, 35-29, going into the break.
Cohen provided a spark when some of the other Baylor players were struggling to find their shot, scoring seven points and grabbing five rebounds in the first quarter. She also grabbed three of the team's 21 offensive boards, leading to 23 second-chance points.
"You can look to the difference in the ballgame that we gave up 21 offensive boards that resulted in 23 points," Littell said. "When you're rotating, sometimes it's hard to get back and keep people off the backside boards. But every time we would make a run, they'd get a second-chance opportunity."
Even with Baylor dominating the rebounding battle, 54-33, and outscoring the Cowgirls, 50-18, on points in the paint, OSU was right there in the fourth quarter with a chance to do something special. They were down by just four at the start of the period and were still within five about two minutes in.
The separator was a pair of 3-pointers by sophomore guard Natalie Chou, who had scored just two points on two shots through the first three quarters.
Chou gave them some breathing room when Brown kicked out to her for an open 3-pointer and 66-57 lead at the 6:42 mark. And then Wallace found her for a 3-pointer from the corner that made it 71-59.
"I keep trying to tell Natalie, `Don't just be a one-dimensional player. Don't just be one that spots up and shoots, and if you go 0-for-5 you quit shooting,''' Mulkey said. "You have to be able to take it off the dribble once or twice. She got a charge early in the game. I don't care, she's trying to drive a little bit, stop and shoot the mid-range (jumper). She's trying to get more deflections and use her size when maybe somebody's quicker that she's guarding. She looked for her shot."
After playing three straight ranked teams, Baylor goes back on the road to face Texas Tech (7-14, 1-9) at 2 p.m. Saturday in Lubbock.