By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Foundation
Using every combination possible, early and often, Baylor coach Kim Mulkey got to showcase her four freshmen's incredible speed and talent in a 122-44 win over Tarleton State in an exhibition game Tuesday night at the Ferrell Center.
Six of Baylor's 10 players scored in double figures, including freshman guards Alexis Morris and Didi Richards with 16 and 12, respectively, with the freshmen also recording eight of the team's 13 steals.
"I think we can press with that lineup, and we did early in the first half," Mulkey said of having the four freshmen on the floor at the same time with either Kalani Brown, Dekeiya Cohen or Lauren Cox.
"Speed is not something you coach, you're blessed with that. We've got two or three that can take it up a notch and make others run with them. And I'm certainly going to use that, I'll have to use that. But, we can go as big as we need to go, and we can also go as fast as we need to go."
The four freshmen also had nine of the team's 16 turnovers, with their frenetic pace sometimes leading to sloppy mistakes.
"They're quick, so it was fast-paced. We were running up and down a lot," said senior forward Dekeiya Cohen, who had 19 points, nine rebounds and two blocks. "It was just getting them to settle down. . . . Once we started running the offense, everyone scored, everyone hustled, everyone played defense. I think it went pretty well."
Cohen and sophomore guard Natalie Chou played fairly limited roles on last year's 33-4 Elite Eight team, both averaging less than 15 minutes and combining for just over eight points per game.
But, with the loss of four of that team's five top scorers, their playing time and roles will clearly increase. Chou had a game-high 20 points, hitting 9-of-12 from the floor and 2-for-4 from 3-point range.
"I thought Natalie came out with a different mindset and really set the tone for our team," Mulkey said, "because Natalie has a tendency to pass up good looks. And she can't do that anymore."
Getting a good inside-out balance, the Lady Bears also got 18 points and seven rebounds from 6-7 All-American center Kalani Brown, 11 points, nine boards and five blocks from 6-4 sophomore Lauren Cox and seven points, seven assists and six rebounds from senior guard Kristy Wallace.
"We had too many turnovers, but it's a good night when you can play everybody extended minutes and just kind of get a feel for different combinations," Mulkey said. "It's fun when you win, obviously, but it's more enjoyable for me as a coach when I see kids who had a role last year on a very good basketball team that was much different than their role will be this year. You can see we can score a lot of points, and those are coming from kids that didn't have to score a lot last year."
They also came from the freshmen, who combined to score 38 points and hit 18-of-27 shots. But, in some cases, they had to first shake off some nerves.
"I was pretty nervous. I couldn't feel my arms at the beginning of the game," Richards said. "I think it was a steal that Moon (Ursin) got. Seeing another freshman do something kind of got me going."
Richards, a highly touted 6-foot-1 wing out of Cypress, Texas, said she knows the freshmen have to play, because "(Mulkey) is always saying, `You've got to learn early, freshmen.'''
Ursin chipped in with six points, five assists and a pair of steals, while 5-11 freshman Trinity Oliver had four points, six rebounds and two steals.
After trading buckets early, the Lady Bears reeled off 11 straight points to jump out to a 13-2 lead on a Chou jumper and pushed that to 27-7 by the end of the opening quarter. But, it was the 11-for-12 shooting performance in the second period that caught Mulkey's eye.
"I don't care who you play, that's scoring the basketball," she said.
Baylor will play Washburn University in the second and final exhibition at 7 p.m. Monday, then tip off the regular season with a matchup against Lamar at 7 p.m. next Friday, Nov. 10.
- No. 3 Baylor defeated Tarleton State, 122-44, in exhibition play on Tuesday inside the Ferrell Center.
- Guard Kristy Wallace, guard Natalie Chou, forward Dekeiya Cohen, forward Lauren Cox and center Kalani Brown started for the Lady Bears.
- All 10 players scored points in the Lady Bears win, each playing at least 18 minutes.
- Six players scored in double figures, including sophomore Natalie Chou (20), senior Dekeiya Cohen (19), sophomore Kalani Brown (18), freshman Alexis Morris (16), freshman Didi Richards (12), and sophomore Lauren Cox (11).
- The Lady Bears were dominant inside, registering 82 of their 122 points in the paint and outrebounding the TexAnns, 52-29.
- Baylor shot an impressive 70.8 percent from the floor, while limiting Tarleton State to 22.2 percent.
- Cohen and Cox led Baylor on the glass with nine rebounds apiece. Cox protected the goal with five blocks on defense.
- The Baylor freshmen accounted for 38 of the team's 122 points, 10 of the team's 52 rebounds and eight of the team's 13 steals in their Ferrell Center debut.
Kim Mulkey Postgame Quotes:
On the freshmen...
"I thought they did well. Pretty much put them out there quickly, all four of them and played all four of the same time. Sometimes that can be ugly, but they were out there and hustled. We had too many turnovers, but it's a good night when you can play everybody extensive minutes and get a feel for different combinations. I thought overall they did well."
On playing different combinations...
"I got to look at a lot of them and it's fun when you win obviously, but it's more enjoyable for me as a coach when I see kids who had a role last year on a very good basketball team that was much different than their role will be this year. I think that you can see we can score a lot of points and those are coming from kids who didn't have to score a lot of points last year."
On the defense...
"I thought the hustle was there, but we're certainly not a finished product. Too many times they would dribble penetrate late in the shot clock and we weren't a very good team on help. I thought help side we would get to the spot, but we were more focused about our man than the ball. We will improve that and get to a point where five Baylor players are guarding the basketball. They'll get better."