By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Foundation
Playing without their head coach and second-leading scorer, the third-ranked Baylor Lady Bears (3-1) suffered their first loss of the season, falling to the No. 8 UCLA Bruins, 82-68, Saturday afternoon at Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles.
Coach Kim Mulkey stayed in Waco to be with her daughter, associate director of basketball operations Makenzie Fuller. The former Baylor player (2010-14) is dealing with the loss of her infant daughter, Scout.
Sophomore forward Lauren Cox, who is averaging 15.7 points, 8.7 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.7 blocks, did not make the road trip to UCLA after developing a complication of her Diabetes Mellitus, which required a brief hospitalization," trainer Alex Olson said in a released statement.
The 6-4 sophomore's condition was "caused by strep throat and associated symptoms, including dehydration, nausea and vomiting." She has been discharged from the hospital and is in good condition. Olson lists Cox's status as "day-to-day."
Even without Cox, the Lady Bears dominated the rebounding battle, 45-31, getting a monster game from 6-7 junior All-American Kalani Brown with 33 points and eight rebounds. Freshman Alexis Morris had 11 points in her first start, but guards Kristy Wallace, Natalie Chou and Didi Richards were just 2-of-16 from the floor.
"There's just no substitute for experience in games like this," said associate head coach Bill Brock, who filled in for Mulkey on the bench. "They'll be better the next time. . . . I know we live in a microwave world and we'd love to just push a button and get experience quick or take some kind of pill and get some experience. But, that just doesn't happen."
Having to play more at the forward spot in Cox's absence, 6-2 senior Dekeiya Cohen just missed a double-double with nine points, 14 rebounds, four assists and a block.
With Brown hitting her first four shots, the Lady Bears jumped out to a 12-4 lead in the first 4 ½ minutes. But, the Bruins reeled off 12 unanswered points to take the lead and were up 36-29 at the break.
UCLA led by as many as 14 in the third quarter, but Baylor pulled within four, 62-58, on a Morris layup with 7:25 left in the game.
That's as close as the Bears would get, though, as the Bruins reeled off 11 straight points and outscored Baylor, 20-10, down the stretch.
"I just felt like we handled the situation about as good as you could. We handled it head-on," Brock said. "Yeah, your youth showed up at times today, but that's all correctible. . . . We got the game back to 62-58 with about seven minutes to go, and we just did hot handle the last seven minutes very well. Some of that was our mistakes. A lot of it is UCLA is a very mature team, they knew when to step up the pressure, they capitalized on our mistakes and they're to be commended for an outstanding performance today."
Monique Billings and Jordin Canada, who played with Brown on the USA team that won the inaugural U24 Four Nations Tournament this summer in Tokyo, Japan, scored 21 and 20 points, respectively, and Kennedy Burke added 19.
"You look at our team, we'll be different come March," Brock said. "Right now, I just want to get back home safely, let these young people take a deep breath and relax for a day, and then we'll come back Monday and try to work and improve."
Baylor will play in the Junkanoo Jam this week in the Bahamas, facing Missouri State (1-1) at 2 p.m. CDT Thursday and then either Penn (1-1) or Georgia Tech (3-0) next Saturday, Nov. 25.