No. 4 Lady Bears secured a share of the Big 12 title Saturday after fighting back from an early deficit to take down Kansas State on the road, 63-52.
“As a competitor, you want to win every game,” said head coach Kim Mulkey. “But win or lose Monday, we’re going to get a ring and we’re still going to cut those nets down. That’s clutch to be able to lose your first conference game and win a championship and not lose another.”
After losing their first conference game on the road to Oklahoma State, the Lady Bears have won 16 straight games, and are also one win away from securing their spot as the No. 1 seed in the Big 12 Tournament next week.
Taking the first game 87-52, at the Ferrell Center earlier this season, the Lady Bears (29-1, 16-1) were poised to take the win, but struggled early on.
With only draining two points in the first four minutes of play, Mulkey was forced to call a timeout.
Continuing to struggle, the Lady Bears came out of the timeout with Niya Johnson producing a rare turn over, followed by a missed jumper by junior post Khadijiah Cave.
Early turnovers and missed looks by the Lady Bears contributed to an early run by the Wildcats (18-10, 10-9) allowing them to position themselves ahead of the Lady Bears at the end of the first quarter, 17-12, a rare spot for the Lady Bears to be in.
Wildcats junior center Breanna Lewis came up big for her team, scoring 20 points, six rebounds, and coming out with four steals.
“That’s big, because that girl can score for them and she played 30 minutes,” Mulkey said. “And then you go to the offensive end, and Nina’s an undersized player in there with the giants and somehow figures out how to get her shot off. They might block it once or twice, and she may not get a call, but she’s going to keep at it.”
A steal and assist by freshman post Beatrice Mompremier to junior guard Nina Davis to start the second quarter gave the Lady Bears a much needed shift in momentum.
With the shift, the Lady Bears began to produce points and come up with stops.
A made jumper by junior guard Alexis Prince, gave the Lady Bears their first lead of the night, 20-19, with just over eight minutes remaining in the second quarter.
“Alexis gave us length on the perimeter,” Mulkey said. “They’ll shoot it quickly in your face, and she gave us that length. And then she had almost double-digit rebounds. Those are big rebounds, because in the first half we didn’t have one offensive board and those guys had nine.”
Going into the half, the Lady Bears continued to dominate, ending the half on top, 30-27, but still struggled with rebounding.
“You think I talked about (the rebounding margin) at halftime? Just a little bit,” Mulkey said.
Coming back from the break, the Wildcats kept the pace the Lady Bears were throwing at them, until just under three minutes remaining when the Lady Bears were able to take their largest lead thus far, 46-34.
With the momentum going their way, the Lady Bears found themselves up 10 with 10 minutes of regulation remaining.
Rebounds on both ends of the court, gave the Lady Bears the edge in the end.
Although never backing down, the Lady Bears presence in the paint to make stops and score points was too much for the Wildcats to handle.
The Lady Bears captured their sixth-straight Big 12 title with the win, 63-52.
Junior forward Nina Davis led the Lady Bears with 14 points and four rebounds and freshman forward Kalani Brown came off the bench to drain 11 points and bring in five rebounds.
“This was more of a defensive game for me, learning to front and play better defense,” Brown said. “But I thought I did well, for the most part.”
The Lady Bears will be return to the Ferrell Center 8 p.m. Monday to take on Texas, where their undefeated home season will be on the line.