By Jeffrey Swindoll
The No. 3 Lady Bears handled the TCU Horned Frogs with a 89-67 victory Tuesday night in Fort Worth to extend their winning streak to 18 games and remain perfect in the Big 12 Conference.
Nationally, the only team with a better streak the Lady Bears is No. 1 South Carolina. The Lady Bears, though young, are shattering their critics’ preseason expectations and are still on track for another Big 12 title and NCAA tournament appearance.
TCU’s University Recreation Center, the venue for Tuesday’s game, seats just under 1,100 fans; 1,700 TCU fans crammed into the small arena. Just 100 of the 1,800 sold tickets were allotted to Baylor’s fan base.
The Lady Bears thought the tiny arena and underrepresented fan support might become an issue, but they overcame it with a decisive victory over TCU on Tuesday.
Baylor (19-1, 8-0) was led by sophomore forward Nina Davis and sophomore post Khadijiah Cave combining for 45 points and 20 rebounds. Cave had a career-high 21 points.
Going into Tuesday night’s game, Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey said it would be a challenge to figure out how exactly she would plan to defend and attack against TCU’s unorthodox playing style that uses five guards at times.
Mulkey certainly had their number. The Lady Bears shut down the Horned Frogs’ five-guard system, forcing TCU (12-7, 4-4) to cough up 17 turnovers and keeping their leading scorer to single-digit scoring.
Two of Baylor’s most experienced players turned in good performances against TCU. Junior guard Niya Johnson, now past the 500 all-time assists mark for Baylor, earned nine assists Tuesday night. Senior post Sune Agbuke totaled a season-high 12 points with four field goals and four free throws in 19 minutes of play. Agbuke was part of a successful night for Baylor’s bigs on Tuesday night.
The Lady Bears used players like Davis, Agbuke and Cave to overpower the Horned Frogs in the paint. Kansas State head coach and former TCU head coach Jeff Mittie commended Baylor’s effectiveness and dominance when it comes to their work on the inside.
Baylor dominated the offensive and defensive boards, winning each of those battles by a double-digit margin. The Lady Bears eliminated the majority of TCU’s second chance efforts that way and held the Horned Frogs’ guard-heavy team to just 10 assists.
The Lady Bears continued to struggle from the free throw line, shooting only 53.8 percent from the charity stripe. However, Baylor found success from downtown, shooting 4-for-10 in three-pointers, and 39-for-79 in field goals.
Freshman guard Kristy Wallace shot 3-for-13 from the field for the Lady Bears. Two of her three made field goals were three pointers that boosted Baylor in a big run in the first half to maintain momentum of a close opening period. The Lady Bears had total control of the game at halftime with a 46-34 lead. Wallace totaled eight points Tuesday night.
TCU, a trigger-happy squad, could not get into a rhythm with its shooters Tuesday night. The Horned Frogs shot merely 26.7 percent on three-pointers.
TCU leading scorer, Zahna Medley, had a nightmare of a night. Baylor held her to just six points, converting just one of her 11 field goal attempts. Veja Hamilton scored 15 points and Chelsea Prince added 13 points, but Medley absence crippled the Horned Frogs’ effort against a relentless Lady Bears team.
Next up, the Lady Bears host the Kansas Jayhawks (11-9, 2-5) who currently sit in a four-way tie at ninth in the league. Last time the Lady Bears played the Jayhawks, Baylor won 71-63. Tip-off is at 1 p.m. Sunday at the Ferrell Center.