By Nathan Keil | Sports Writer
No. 2 Baylor (30-3, 17-1) had its championship dreams dashed Monday night in the final of the Phillips Big 12 conference tournament as West Virginia (23-10, 8-10) turned the Lady Bears over 15 times and hit 11 3-point field goals en route to a 77-66 upset.
Sophomore guard Tynice Martin led the way for the Mountaineers, dashing the Lady Bears’ defense to the tune of a game-high 32 points, five rebounds and four assists.
Baylor redshirt senior guard Alexis Prince drew the assignment of guarding Martin. Prince said there wasn’t much she could do to disrupt her rhythm.
“When a player gets hot, not really much you can do,” Prince said.
Junior guard Teana Muldrow finished with 15 points and nine rebounds while sophomore guard Katrina Pardee added 11 points for West Virginia.
West Virginia jumped out to a 22-14 lead after one quarter and led by nine, at 39-30 at halftime. The Mountaineers hit seven of 16 3-point attempts in the first half, and Martin had 19 points to the lead way.
Lady Bears head coach Kim Mulkey said West Virginia’s red-hot start gave the Mountaineers confidence and that the Bears were never able to fully recover.
“This game honestly was probably lost in the first five minutes,” Mulkey said. “Part of our scouting report when you played these guys — because they’re on a roll right now, and they’re playing really well, and they’re scoring the ball. You can only give them one opportunity to miss. We didn’t get rebounds.”
The Mountaineers continued to excel as they built a 21-point lead after three quarters, 65-44.
However, Baylor refused to go away quietly. The Lady Bears turned up the pressure defensively, instilling the full court press and driving to the basket with reckless abandon.
The Lady Bears were able to trim the lead to as close as six at 72-66 with 24 seconds left but were unable to score on their final two possessions, with the Mountaineers sealing the victory at the free throw line.
Only four Lady Bears scored, but all finished in double figures. Sophomore post Kalani Brown led the way with 19 points. Junior guard Kristy Wallace scored 17, and Prince and senior forward Nina Davis both scored 15 points.
West Virginia completed three wins in three days over ranked opponents, knocking off No. 19 Oklahoma 82-58 on Saturday, No. 12 Texas 62-59 on Sunday and finally No. 2 Baylor to claim the Phillips Big 12 Conference Tournament Championship. The Mountaineers will get the Big 12’s automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament.
Although Monday didn’t end the way the Lady Bears wanted it to, Baylor added two more wins to its impressive NCAA Tournament resume and is still in line to receive a No. 1 seed and host the first two rounds of competition.
Baylor will have to wait until the 2017 selection show to find out who and where it will play first. The tournament field will be announced at 6 p.m Monday on ESPN.
En route to the Big 12 championship game, Baylor previously knocked off both Texas Tech and Kansas State.
On Saturday, the Lady Bears overwhelmed the Lady Red Raiders 95-63 as all five Lady Bears finished in double figures scoring led by redshirt senior guard Alexis Prince who scored 22 points.
Prince said she was going to do whatever the team needed her to do to win.
“Just trying to help my team any way I can, so if I need to score, I will score,” Prince said. “If I need to defend, I will defend, whatever. Just trying to play hard every game.”
Davis added 18 and grabbed 14 rebounds; junior forward Dekeiya Cohen scored 17; Brown had 14 points and 10 rebounds and Wallace had 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Baylor scored the first eight points of the game and raced out to an early 22-7 lead and never looked back.
The Lady Bears dominated the paint, outscoring the Lady Red Raiders 52-18 and using their size inside to turn offensive rebounds into 25 second-chance points. Baylor also scored 22 points off of Texas Tech’s miscues.
Sophomore guard Recee Caldwell led the way with 21 points for Texas Tech (14-17, 5-13).
On Sunday, Davis scored 24 points, Brown scored 18 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, Prince 18 points and Wallace dished out 15 assists as Baylor eliminated Kansas State 88-71.
Davis said that Wallace’s energy was what made the difference against the Wildcats.
“She gets pretty much all the credit, 99.1 percent,” Davis said. “The other is finishing the shot, but we go as Kristy goes. All year long she has been our ‘Energizer bunny.’ She never get tired. She is going to take that charge. She is always going to give her heart.”
Baylor once again controlled the paint, outscoring Kansas State 50-26 down low and 18-9 on second-chance opportunities.
Junior guard Karla Middlebrook led the way for Kansas State (22-10, 11-7), scoring 20 points while senior center Breanna Lewis scored 14 points and grabbed 11 rebounds.
Kansas State and West Virginia will also find out their seeds and opponents when the bracket is announced on Monday.