By Jeffrey Swindoll
The No. 5 Lady Bears easily handled 15-seed Northwestern State Friday afternoon at the Ferrell Center by a score of 77-36. Baylor switched on the cruise control after jumping out to an early double-digit lead over the Lady Demons.
Baylor will finish up play in Waco at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday against 10-seed Arkansas which pulled off a late comeback over seven-seed Northwestern to advance to the second round.
Northwestern State’s size disadvantage was evident from the start. Just one player in the Lady Demons’ starting lineup was listed at 6-1, and only three of Northwestern’s players surpass the 6-foot mark. Baylor’s lineup seemed gigantic against the Lady Demons and played like it too. Baylor outrebounded NSU 53-26.
Sophomore forward Nina Davis, junior guard Niya Johnson and sophomore post Khadijiah Cave led the attack for Baylor with each scoring in double-figures. The size advantage gave the Lady Bears full range of motion in the paint, scoring 48 points in the paint compared to NSU’s eight points in the paint.
“We definitely had a size advantage today, so we pretty much knew that if we just get the ball to post player we’d be able to get any shot that we wanted,” Davis said. “We’ve been emphasizing all year get the ball to the post and then get the outside guards in. We did that today and it worked.”
NSU started the game shooting 28.6 percent from the field in the first half and plummeted even further down in the second half, shooting a measly 19.4 percent. On top of the Lady Demons’ severe struggle with making shots, the Lady Bears sent the Lady Demons to line only once in the entire game. In other words, Baylor had no interest in giving up free points and the Lady Demons couldn’t do themselves any favors either.
“I think [committing only five fouls] was probably just [due to the size] advantage,” Mulkey said. “We were beaten off the dribble several times but we were able to swat the balls because we were bigger from behind.”
Two aspects of the Lady Bears have been highlighted this season, balance and depth. Baylor’s depth was especially evident when the Lady Bears took a comfortable lead. Davis, Johnson and Cave probably could have ended the day with over 20 points each, but head coach Kim Mulkey took advantage of the opportunity to rest her starters after the Lady Bears went up by a lot.
“They’ve just made me play a lot of players, and they all bring something to the table. When you can play a game like today where they all basically play the same amount of minutes, rest helps. It especially helps if you deep in the tournament,” Mulkey said. “The more rest along the way that you can get, the fresher your legs are. It may not surface the first and second rounds. It could very likely surface if you make it to a regional tournament. It’s not only rest for the starters. It’s experience for all of them that you’re going to have to count on late in the season.”