By Jeffrey Swindoll
The No. 3 Lady Bears climbed to 9-0 in the Big 12 Conference after a gritty 66-58 win over the Kansas Jayhawks on Sunday at the Ferrell Center. Baylor extended its impressive win streak to 19 games in a row.
The game was strewn with controversial officiating, inconsistent free-throw shooting and plenty of turnovers for both sides. The rowdy crowd at the Ferrell Center was loud and evidently frustrated with the referees after 43 fouls were called on Sunday.
“This was a very difficult game to coach,” Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey said. “I thought the flow was just interrupted too much. When you create 28 turnovers, you take 22 more shots than your opponent, you hold [Chelsea] Gardner and [Natalie] Knight in check, you shoot the same number of free throws, but yet you struggle to just really extend a lead and win a game, I don’t want to say ‘convincingly’, but it was just a tough game.”
Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey was livid for much of the game, coming to the brink of being ejected from the game entirely. Mulkey ended up getting called for a technical foul after her argument after one call was a bit too passionate for the referee’s liking.
That same incident saw multiple Baylor players physically holding Mulkey back as she tossed and turned on the sideline, yelling in the referee’s direction. In reference to the technical foul incident, Mulkey joked after the game saying it was the most leadership her players have shown all season.
“Me and Nina [Davis] tried to hold her back and told her it’s not worth it. We needed her,” junior guard Niya Johnson said. “She would’ve gotten thrown out and added two more points to the scoreboard. We had to play it smart.”
Kansas took an early lead as the Lady Bears stumbled in the first few series of plays. The Lady Bears were not on the same page, committing errant passes and poor shot decisions while Kansas executed well.
Earlier in the season, the Lady Bears faced a similar challenge after falling early to Oklahoma State. That time the Lady Bears were down at halftime but finally broke through in the second half, winning by double-digits. This time around, the Jayhawks and the Lady Bears each traded the lead on multiple occasions in both halves. There was never any moment for either team to settle.
“There were some calls, but that’s all a part of the game,” Davis said. “Probably the most frustrating thing was that we had a lot of layups that we missed and a lot of free throws. Every game is not going to be perfect. I’m proud of my team for the way we fought through.”
The Lady Bears dug themselves out of a hole with a 9-0 run to make it 12-12 with just over 10 minutes left in the first half. The lead swung back and forth until the halftime whistle, where the Lady Bears led 32-28 at the break.
The second half was no different; same song, second verse. Both teams struggled with the constricting nature of Sunday’s officiating as well as the frustration of poor shooting.
Eventually, the Lady Bears’ difference was doing a better job of getting defensive stops and turning them into quick baskets on fast-breaks. The Lady Bears scored 32 total points off Kansas’ 28 turnovers. Kansas scored just nine points off Baylor’s 17 turnovers.
Mulkey has quite a few three-point shooters on her team, but the Lady Bears were content to play rough-and-tough basketball. The Lady Bears dominated the points spread in the paint (44-16) as well as second chance baskets (18-8).
The Jayhawks are one of the few teams this season to have drawn even with the Lady Bears on rebounding at the Ferrell Center (33-33). However, Baylor’s offensive rebounding was much higher than Kansas’ (16-6).
Davis scored her 1,000th collegiate point during her 22-point outing against the Jayhawks on Sunday. Davis is Mulkey’s 12th player ever to surpass 1,000 points. Johnson earned a double-double with 13 points and 10 assists. Johnson scuffed three turnovers in her 37 minutes of play.
Kansas’ Asia Boyd and Lauren Aldridge led the Jayhawks with a combined 26-point effort, both scoring in double-figures, making 13 of their 17 free throws. The Lady Bears held Kansas’ leading scorers Gardner and Knight to just 7 points and 8 points on Sunday.
Next up, the Lady Bears travel to Stillwater, Okla., to face Oklahoma State at 7 p.m. on Wednesday.