By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Foundation
Resting guards Natalie Chou and Didi Richards for the entire game on Saturday and sitting post players Kalani Brown and Lauren Cox for the fourth quarter, Baylor coach Kim Mulkey put her "next man up" philosophy to the ultimate test.
The third-ranked Lady Bears (21-1, 11-0) passed it with flying colors as sophomore guard Juicy Landrum drained four 3-pointers and scored a career-high 20 points in her first start in a 90-44 drubbing of the Texas Tech Lady Raiders (7-15, 1-10) at United Supermarkets Arena in Lubbock.
"You have a game plan when you go into games, what you want to do," said Mulkey, whose team won its 18th in a row and 17th straight against Tech. "Sometimes, the game dictates that you can follow that game plan or you don't. My plan was to rest the bigs, and we did that. My plan was to not have to play those two kids, Natalie and Didi. But, you don't know how the game is going to go. The flow of the game went just exactly like you would want it to go."
Landrum played a big part in that by hitting her first eight shots, including a long-distance 3-pointer at the end of the first quarter, capping a 15-0 run and giving the Lady Bears a 21-6 lead.
"Coach says to get your feet set, and you can nail the shot," said Landrum, who finished 8-of-10 from the floor and 4-of-6 from outside the arc. "When I'm open, I just get my feet set and let the shot go. I know I have a pretty good shot, but when Coach says it's your opportunity, (you have to) take advantage of it. And I think that's what I did today."
The day before the game, Mulkey told the sophomore guard from nearby La Vega High School that she was getting the start. Chou hurt her wrist in an 81-56 win over then-No. 6 Texas back on Jan. 25 and Richards had tweaked her ankle in Wednesday's game against Oklahoma State.
"When you can rest kids this late in the year, particularly if they have little aches and pains, you do it," Mulkey said.
What she saw in Landrum was a "very confident kid, a kid that's waited her turn."
"She's put in a lot of extra work in the gym, and I think you saw that it's paid off for her," Mulkey said of Landrum, who added four assists and a career-high nine rebounds. "Juicy has an unbelievable shot. She's got great range on her shot, and it's good to see her step in like we didn't miss a beat."
In the first game with Tech, a 97-49 win by Baylor on New Year's Eve, Brown and Cox combined for 47 points and shot a sizzling 72 percent from the floor (18-of-25). This time, the Lady Raiders made things tougher inside, holding them to a combined 23 points on 10-of-23 shooting.
"I thought we frustrated their bigs," said Tech interim head coach Shimmy Gray-Miller, who has lost eight of nine since taking over when Candi Whitaker was fired after that first Baylor game.
"Their post players (including Dekeiya Cohen) had five of the nine turnovers in the first half. Kalani Brown was below her average. I believe Lauren Cox was as well. I saw a little frustration, especially out of Cox, so yeah I saw a tremendous amount of growth in how far we've come."
Baylor stretched its lead to 42-23 by halftime and then blew it open with a 29-point third quarter, going up 71-30. That allowed Mulkey to sit the 6-7 Brown and 6-4 Cox for the fourth quarter, going with a five-guard lineup that had the 5-9 Landrum and 5-11 senior Kristy Wallace in the back of a 2-3 zone.
"I thought in the fourth quarter when I took the bigs completely off the floor and went five guards, (Landrum) and Kristy had to battle down there with Texas Tech's big girls," Mulkey said. "I was probably as proud of that as I was any of the 3's they made."
Wallace recorded her second double-double of the season and third of her career with 16 points, 11 rebounds and six assists, while Cohen (19), Cox (12) and Brown (11) rounded out Baylor's five double-digit scorers.
Freshman guard Moon Ursin, who hadn't seen the floor in the previous three games, had seven points and three rebounds in 17 minutes off the bench.
"She has tremendous speed and quickness, and she did some things on the ball," Mulkey said of Ursin. "They have to do that now, because they don't know how long Natalie and Didi will rest. It's a long season left to be played, and next man up is the way I look at it."
Playing their fifth game in 12 days, the Lady Bears host Oklahoma (12-11, 7-5) at 8 p.m. Monday in an FS1 broadcast, with Ron Thulin and Missy Heidrick calling the action.
"I feel like I'm on an NBA schedule," Mulkey said. "You can't just go out there and practice in between games, there's just not much time. And you're trying to keep the legs from becoming dead. So, we'll do as much as we can (Sunday) and at shoot-around on Monday and play another very good Oklahoma team that won pretty handily today against West Virginia (76-57)."