By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Foundation
Central Arkansas coach Sandra Rushing has one request of the NCAA selection committee: If the Sugar Bears go back to the tournament, "I definitely do not want to play Baylor."
With a starting lineup that featured no player taller than 6-foot-1, Central Arkansas (1-1) struggled to even slow down the Lady Bears' duo of 6-7 Kalani Brown and 6-4 Lauren Cox. The result was predictable, although closer than the first two games, as Baylor (3-0) coasted to an 86-55 win Tuesday night at the Ferrell Center.
"Wow, they are big, fast good," Rushing said. "There was nothing we could do. Everything that we tried, they had something for us."
Cox (21 points, 10 rebounds) and Brown (19 points, 11 boards) both posted impressive double-doubles as the Lady Bears outscored the Sugar Bears, 54-12, in the paint and dominated the boards, 41-23.
"Those kids can get you double-doubles every night," said Baylor coach Kim Mulkey, whose team won its first three games by an average margin of 45.3 points. "I'd like to see two or three (off the bench) give us some spot minutes and go with your seven or eight (player) rotation. That's what I'm trying to get to. . . . But yeah, your bigs should do what they do."
They also happen to be two of the best passers on the team. Brown was on a triple-double pace at halftime with five assists and finished with a career-best seven, while Cox had four.
"We have that connection with each other," Cox said. "We know where to put the ball where the other post is going to catch it and score. We're going to get doubled a lot in the post, so we have to know where our other post is and all the shooters outside."
There are times when Mulkey would rather see Brown shoot it than pass.
"Sometimes, she'll pass it for a 3 and give up a two-point layup for herself," Mulkey said. "I don't want that. But, she's always been a good passer. Her turnovers come when she's trying to pass and be kind to a teammate instead of being aggressive and just go score."
With sophomore guard Natalie Chou, it's just getting her to pull the trigger when she's open.
"She turns down too many shots," Mulkey said. "We've got to tell Natalie, `Shoot the ball. Shoot the ball whether it goes in or not.'''
The guards combined to miss their first seven shots until Chou drained back-to-back 3-pointers, igniting a 10-0 run that stretched Baylor's lead to double digits, 30-18, early in the second quarter on a fast break layup by Kristy Wallace off a dish from Brown.
"I'm pretty sure Kalani assisted on two (of my three 3-pointers)," said Chou, who was 3-of-5 from outside the arc and finished with 11 points. "She just found me, and I felt good on my shots. I just shot it and it went in."
All five starters scored in double figures, with Wallace adding 11 points, six assists and only one turnover, and Dekeiya Cohen coming close to a double-double herself with 10 points and eight boards.
After completely dominating the three home games in five days, the Lady Bears' schedule ratchets up with three ranked teams in the next five games, starting with Saturday's 3 p.m. CDT matchup at eighth-ranked UCLA (2-0).
"It's too early, we're not polished," said Mulkey, when asked about the timing of playing a top-10 matchup on the road. "But, it's OK. I guess it's a good time in that it really doesn't affect you, win or lose. . . . It will tell us a lot about our team. But, you'd like to be at your best, and I don't imagine either one of us will be. They obviously had more returning players than we do, but we have pretty darn good players ourselves. And, it will be good for us."