By Nathan Keil | Sports Editor
Junior center Kalani Brown showed Lamar why she is an All-American and on the Lisa Leslie Award watch list for the nation’s top center.
Brown finished with a game-high 26 points on 11 of 16 shooting from the floor and grabbed 21 rebounds as the Lady Bears were never challenged in a dominant 121-62 win over the Cardinals Friday night.
Brown said that she needs to continue this level of play for the Lady Bears moving forward.
“It was one of my goals to average a double-double this year. I was close last year, averaging 15 [points] and eight [rebounds],” Brown said. “Having the dominance is what coach wants me to do, so I’m going to continue to keep doing it.”
Brown, who scored Baylor’s first basket on a short jumper, did a little bit of everything for head coach Kim Mulkey’s Lady Bears. She connected on four of her five free throw attempts and dished out two assists in 32 minutes of action for the Lady Bears.
It wasn’t just the strength of Brown that propelled No. 3 Baylor to a 59-point win on opening night. Five others finished in double figure scoring, including sophomore guard Natalie Chou, who finished with 22 points, senior forward Dekeiya Cohen scored 16, senior guard Kristy Wallace 15, sophomore forward Lauren Cox 14 and freshman guard Alexis Morris had 12.
Wallace said that the team was moving the ball around well, which led to high percentage shots.
“I think our offense is best when we are moving the ball around,” Wallace said. “Kicking it. I thought we started a little stagnant and we had to get going, but once we had a few transition points we were able to kick the ball ahead and get the ball moving.”
Baylor trailed for less than three minutes in the game, erasing an early 10-7 deficit. After a Cohen jumper put the Lady Bears in front 11-10, the basket sparked a 22-0 run as Baylor went up 31-10.
The Lady Bears continued to impose their will with Brown and Chou leading the way, combining for 14 of Baylor’s 21 second quarter points as the Lady Bears went into the break with a commanding 60-31 advantage.
Lamar head coach Robin Harmony said the Cardinals had no answer for Brown and Cox in the post.
“That size is unbelievable. The high-low is something that is almost impossible to stop,” Harmony said. “The only way we did stop it was when we got three seconds for about four times and that was it. Even if you do try to stop it, they kick it and they hit the three. They’ll probably be in the Final Four this year.”
The second half followed in similar fashion as Baylor continued to run away with the game en route to the 59-point win.
The Lady Bears found their shooting touch early and never really lost it, finishing at a sizzling 63 percent for the game. Baylor was able to do it from deep and from up close, connecting on eight of its 12 three point attempts as well as dominating the paint, outscoring Lamar 68-12 for the game.Chou hit two of three from long range while Wallace drilled three of her five attempts from deep.
Cox’s jumper at the 8:22 mark of the fourth quarter helped Baylor eclipse the 100-point mark, something Baylor did seven times last season.
Lamar junior guard Chastadie Barrs led the Cardinals with 16 points before fouling out.
Even though the Lady Bears were never really tested by Lamar, turnovers and foul trouble became an issue. Baylor committed 15 turnovers and had four players finish with four fouls, something that Mulkey and the Lady Bears will look to correct moving forward, especially with a team that only has 10 scholarship players and six who played significant roles a year ago.
“Give Lamar credit. Lamar’s going to be tough to beat in that league,” Mulkey said. “They are picked to win it, they were undefeated at home last year. They are very athletic and they run some good stuff.”
No. 3 Baylor (1-0) will take on Central Arkansas at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Ferrell Center.