By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Foundation
After the two teams went toe-to-toe well into the fourth quarter of a game just 13 days ago in Waco, the third-ranked Baylor Lady Bears' trip to Stillwater, Okla., on Tuesday looked like one of the biggest road blocks left in what's been a smooth path to their eighth straight Big 12 title.
This wasn't even a speed bump.
Dominating in every way possible, the Lady Bears (24-1, 14-0) ran their winning streak to 21 in a row and cruised to a surprisingly easy 42-point blowout victory over the No. 21 Oklahoma State Cowgirls (18-7, 9-5), 87-45, at Gallagher-Iba Arena.
"What you saw tonight was not what we did in Waco," Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said, referring to a 77-64 win over the Cowgirls in Waco back on Jan. 31. "We basically played a game where we could do no wrong. We shot it well, we defended like crazy. It was just one of those nights. But, that doesn't mean (OSU coach Jim) Littell's team is not good. It just wasn't their night."
Not only had OSU stayed within striking distance in the first meeting with Baylor, this is the same team that beat nationally ranked West Virginia and UCLA on this same floor and took top-10 teams Mississippi State and Texas down to the wire on the road.
But the truth is, nothing went right for the Cowgirls this time around.
Baylor shot a sizzling 55 percent from the field while holding OSU to just 21.3 percent for the game (13-of-61), 12 percent from 3-point range (2-of-17) and a dismal 1-of-11 in the fourth quarter.
Littell, whose team had reeled off three straight wins since the loss in Waco, called it a "very frustrating night, a very disappointing night."
"No excuses, we got dominated in virtually every phase of the game," he said. "A big part of our game is based on getting the ball inside and scoring inside, and they're very difficult to score on inside. Their length, their size, causes us a lot of difficulty. And you just can't shoot 21 percent from the floor and 1-of-11 (in the last quarter). It's frustrating, but I believe in our kids. We've got to be resilient on this, turn the page in a hurry."
After a stretch of games where they were at least tested, the Lady Bears shut the door on this one in a hurry.
OSU did get out to leads of 3-0 and 5-2 in the first 65 seconds of the game. But then, senior point guard Kristy Wallace hit three buckets in a 14-0 run that helped the Lady Bears take a double-digit lead, 22-9, by the end of the first quarter.
"It was just our lock-down defense that was able to get us there," said Wallace, who had 18 points, eight rebounds and six assists. "The girls worked well together, our bench players contributed. So, it was a good win for the team. Defensively, we just picked it up, especially after that first 3-pointer."
In that first game, the Cowgirls were 9-of-25 from outside the arc, with reserve forward LaTashia Jones hitting three treys and finishing with a game-high 13 points - 10 above her scoring average. The 6-2 junior was held in check this time, shooting 0-for-3 from the floor and scoring just two points with one rebound in 19 minutes.
It was a tough night as well for the trio of Kaylee Jensen, Loryn Goodwin and Braxtin Miller. They scored 31 points on 11-of-41 shooting against the Lady Bears in Waco and were 12-of-54 overall and 2-of-17 from outside the arc on their home floor. Jensen was OSU's only double-digit scorer with 18 points, but it took her 23 shots to get it. The backcourt duo of Goodwin and Miller were a combined 5-of-31 and scored nine and eight points, respectively.
"I think we took away a lot of the perimeter 3's," Mulkey said. "And you think, `Well, first you need to take away Jensen.' Jensen's going to get hers because she's just that big in there. We match up well with her, and everything she gets she's going to have to work for. But, in Waco, their bench killed us (20-3). We wanted to eliminate all the extra scoring on the perimeter. I thought we contested things, we were outside the 3 every time they touched it. They got a lot of free throws, but we didn't allow the free throws to beat us."
And they did it with 6-4 sophomore forward Lauren Cox sitting on the bench for the last 18 minutes of the game after she picked up a technical and her fourth foul less than two minutes into the third quarter.
Mandy Coleman hit three of the four free throws to pare a 21-point halftime deficit (44-23) down to 48-30. But, all that did was just fire up the Lady Bears as they reeled off eight unanswered points and stretched the lead back out to 69-41 going into the final quarter.
Kalani Brown posted a monster double-double with 20 points and a career-high 23 rebounds, with senior forward Dekeiya Cohen taking up the slack with her third career double-double with 20 points and 11 boards.
Wallace, who netted double-digit points for the 50th time in her career, said the 6-7 Brown "has been working at it, and she's just had some monster games. I'm so happy for her."
"Kristy just ran the show out there," Mulkey said. "She knew when to push the ball in transition, she executed everything I asked her to run. And we were able to give her some rest. She didn't have to play 40 minutes."
Baylor has a two-game lead on sixth-ranked Texas (20-4, 11-2) with four games to play. The Lady Bears host Kansas (11-13, 2-11) at 1 p.m. Saturday before playing the Longhorns with a chance to clinch the title next Monday in Austin.