By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Foundation
Ten games into the season, injuries seem to be the only thing that could possibly derail this Baylor Lady Bear train that just keeps on rolling.
Even with sophomore forward Lauren Cox sitting out the last 32 ½ minutes with a sprained ankle, the sixth-ranked Lady Bears (9-1) had no problems dispatching the McNeese State Cowgirls, 95-34, Wednesday afternoon for their sixth straight win since losing to UCLA on the road in a game where they were without both Cox and coach Kim Mulkey.
"I thought we came out after the tip and we were really focused . . . we played hard," Mulkey said. "Then, after Cox sprained her ankle, we kind of got discombobulated. We just kind of got out of the flow, so we missed some shots. Then, about the third quarter, we kept missing those shots when they went to a 3-2 zone. And we stayed with it on the defensive end. We did some good things today under the circumstances."
With freshman guard Trinity Oliver already out for the season with a torn ACL and senior forward Dekeiya Cohen getting some extra rest for her aching knees, Baylor was down to seven available players when Cox went out at the 2:42 mark in the first quarter.
"Dekeiya's good to go, she could have played," Mulkey said. "I'm just trying to be smart, knowing I have a short roster. If you remember, I rested (Alexis) Jones in December (last year). I don't want (Cohen's) knees swelling and I don't want them hurting through the conference season. So, I've convinced her just to kind of rest a little bit here."
At least for this one, they were just fine without Cox, Cohen and Oliver.
Baylor's defense held the Cowgirls (4-5) to just 18 percent shooting from the field and a dismal 4-of-27 from outside the arc. McNeese State cracked double digits in just one of the four quarters and matched its season low for scoring, a 100-34 loss to then-No. 2 Texas back on Nov. 15.
"I think we came out well," said senior guard Kristy Wallace, who turned in a solid all-around performance with a game-high 20 points to go with five rebounds, five assists and a career high-tying three blocks in just 24 minutes. "We ran the floor really hard, especially with (freshman Alexis Morris) at the point to begin the game. We did have some lapses during the game where we were just not fully there defensively. But overall, I think we came back ready to play."
Despite coming off a seven-day break for semester final exams, there were certainly no signs of rust as the Lady Bears jumped out to a 27-3 lead in the first eight minutes, with Kalani Brown capping a 19-0 run with a three-point play. Brown added her fifth double-double of the season with 17 points and 16 rebounds, but the national leader in field goal percentage shot below 50 percent for the first time all year (8-of-17).
"I guess I got into a little slump, but I managed to pick it up and get my rebounds and do what I could," said Brown, who had seven offensive boards.
The Cowgirls' only real run of the game was back-to-back 3-pointers at the end of the first quarter by Regan Bolton and Mercedes Rogers that cut Baylor's lead to 29-9.
"Because we don't have subs, you've got to get some work in at the same time. So, it was good to play today," Mulkey said. "I hate that Lauren rolled her ankle, because she and Kalani have been really good together. We've been clicking here of late."
Baylor had five players score in double figures, including freshman guard Didi Richards with 11 points and 12 rebounds for her first career double-double. Natalie Chou and Juicy Landrum chipped in with 17 and 10 points, respectively, while freshman guard Moon Ursin had eight points and a career-high 12 rebounds.
"I felt like I needed to crash the boards, because I've been getting yelled at about not rebounding the last couple of games," said the 6-foot-1 Richards, who came in averaging just 1.9 rebounds per game.
Mulkey says Richards is like a ragdoll, because "you just get pushed around. You flop around. Be strong."
"I am," Richards said.
"You saw that rebound she gave up there at the end on a missed free throw, right?" Mulkey asked. "She's our little ragdoll, but she's ours and nobody else's. We chose her, and we're going to keep her."
With the mousiest of voices, Richards whispered into the mic, "Thank you."
After playing its final non-conference home game, Baylor goes on the road to face Nicholls State (4-4) at 7 p.m. Monday in Thibodaux, La., before opening league play at Kansas State (6-2) on Dec. 28. The Colonels have won three in a row and face Mississippi Valley State on Friday before hosting the Lady Bears three days later.