By Jeffrey Swindoll
The No. 3 Lady Bears extended their winning streak to 17 games after a 68-46 blowout of the Kansas State Wildcats on Saturday at the Ferrell Center. Baylor, still undefeated in conference play, travels to Fort Worth on Tuesday to face TCU.
“We got [Baylor] to miss from three enough to be in the game, but in the end, the second chances really hurt us,” Kansas State head coach Jeff Mittie said. “Length actually is better for offense than it is for defense. [Baylor] has the ability to put a lot of size [under the basket]. That’s where they were really effective today.”
Though they struggled with three-point and free throw shooting, the Lady Bears wore down Kansas State with their matchups in the paint on both sides of the court. Senior post Sune Agbuke had four blocks and shot 4-for-7 from the field. The Lady Bears capitalized on some of those misses with 16 second chance points compared to Kansas State’s seven second-chance points.
Junior guard Alexis Prince led the game with 18 points, shooting 50 percent overall (8-for-16 on field goals, 2-4 on three-pointers). Freshman guard Kristy Wallace shot 1-for-7 from downtown, but ended the day with 11 points on five field goals.
“[Prince] is not going to to turn down a shot, and we don’t want her to.” Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey said. “Alexis and Kristy both shot the ball pretty decent today. Not from the three, but I thought they did some things well.”
Mulkey got to experiment with a number of different combinations of players with a double-digit lead for the majority of the game. Mulkey considered Saturday’s game against Kansas State as an opportunity to see more players contribute. Some bench players ran well with their chance, while others had Mulkey scratching her head a bit.
Sophomore guard Ieshia Small played just seven minutes, but committed three turnovers and earned no assists. Mulkey tried to incorporate Small in the first half, but after some poor decisions, Mulkey’s hand was forced to substitute Small out of the game. Mulkey’s frustration was evident, but she took the time to stop Small and calmly give her guidance. There are still growing pains to be had on Mulkey’s young squad.
“I subbed a lot early, and sometimes that takes you out of the flow of the game,” Mulkey said. “I had a plan going into this game. I thought that everybody could help us, but that kind of takes you out of a rhythm a little bit.”
On a higher note, junior guard Niya Johnson earned her 500th-career assist in the second half, putting her at second on the all-time Baylor assists list.
“It’s just a blessing to feed my teammates the ball and them shooting it and making it,” Johnson said. “It doesn’t stop here, I’ve just got to continue to pass the ball and shoot and just play my game.”
Saturday’s game tipped-off at 11 a.m. Mulkey said the effects of the early start universally impacted their game against Kansas State. From the fans, to the players, to the band, Mulkey described the atmosphere as dead.
“I was looking for more intensity and enthusiasm, more intensity,” Mulkey said. “I just thought the whole arena was dead. From the way we played, to the way I coached, to the way the fans were, I guess it was an 11 o’clock game. I hope that was the reason and not that we take anything for granted. I just didn’t feel it today in the arena.”
The Lady Bears did win by a comfortable margin, even with most of her started sitting on the bench longer than usual and they are still sitting pretty in the driver’s seat of the Big 12 Conference. Mulkey’s criticism of her team and the fan support on Saturday was honest, but she recognized that a win is a win and she keeps that in perspective.
“We won, and I don’t take those things for granted, but we’ve just got to keep getting better,” Mulkey said. “We’ve got to fight through the hard moments in games like today and there were a lot of hard moments for us today.”