By Max Calderone | Sports Writer
The top-seeded Baylor Lady Bears began their 2018 Phillips 66 Big 12 Women’s Basketball Championship tournament with a 83-54 win over eight seed Kansas State on Saturday in Oklahoma City.
Junior center Kalani Brown put the team on her back, scoring 26 points and grabbing 13 rebounds as senior guard Kristy Wallace missed the game with a torn ACL. Senior forward Dekeiya Cohen stepped up and added 19 points on eight of 15 shooting.
Freshman guard Alexis Morris got the start in place of Wallace running the point. Head coach Kim Mulkey has full confidence her abilities, saying Thursday in a press conference that it was simply a matter of next man up.
“I don’t anticipate her seeing anything she hasn’t seen [before],” Mulkey said. “Morris was a McDonald’s All-American, she has played the point.”
Morris finished the game with three assists, showing her strength as a floor general with many intangible skills.
Baylor dominated in the paint throughout the afternoon, outscoring the Wildcats 48-12 down low and winning the rebound battle 44-20. Brown and sophomore forward Lauren Cox combined for 20 of the 44 total boards.
The Lady Bears got off to a hot start, beginning the game on a 12-3 run over the first four and a half minutes. Brown put back a Cohen miss to open the scoring as part of her 12 points in the first quarter. She hit a layup as time expired to close the period with Baylor ahead 22-10.
Sophomore guard Juicy Landrum knocked down her first bucket of the game with 8:06 left in the second quarter to put the Lady Bears up 28-12. Morris continued to showcase her vision, assisting on back-to-back scores by Baylor as Cohen hit a layup a minute later.
Kansas State tried to cut in to the defecit as junior guard Kayla Goth scored nine of her team’s next 12 points in a three minute span to bring the Wildcats within 16. The problem was, the Baylor offense was matching Kansas State’s every step of the way.
The Lady Bears shot 53 percent from the field in the first half, entering the break ahead 46-27. Cox hit one of Baylor’s two three-pointers of the half to keep the momentum squarely with the Lady Bears.
Baylor didn’t miss a beat after returning from halftime, scoring the first 16 points of the quarter. Landrum started the run with a layup at the 8:20 mark and drilled a shot from downtown to put the Lady Bears up by 31. Freshman guard Didi Richards joined the fun, laying in a basket as the lead swelled to 62-27.
Goth was the one to stop the bleeding for the Wildcats, knocking down a jumper with 4:10 remaining in the third quarter. She had a team high 24 points on the afternoon.
Baylor closed the quarter on an 8-0 run to push the score to 70-33 as the teams got set for the final period.
Mulkey elected to rest her post players, Brown and Cox, in the fourth quarter as freshman guard Moon Ursin got her first taste of postseason basketball. She ended the game with six points on three of six shooting.
All that was left was for the Wildcats to chip away at the large defecit, and they had their best offensive quarter, putting up 21 points. But in the end, they were unable to make a significant dent as the Lady Bears coasted to another victory.
Baylor will advance to take on TCU in the semifinals Sunday in Oklahoma City. Tip-off is set for 2 p.m. on FS1.