Depth & Dynasty: Lady Bears secure sixth straight Big 12 title

Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey hoists one of the basketball nets at the Ferrell Center during the Lady Bears’ post-game celebration after winning the Big 12 regular season title on Monday at the Ferrell Center. Baylor overcame Texas with a second half blowout win, 74-48. Photo credit: Chris Allen

The No. 4 Lady Bears finished their season undefeated at home at claimed the full title as Big 12 champions for the sixth straight season.

In a night honoring seniors, forward Chardonai Fuqua’, guard Niya Johnson, and post Kristina Higgins, the Lady Bears (30-1, 17-1) extended their win streak to 17.

“I thought tonight, walking out on the floor and seeing all those gold shirts. Seeing the students from Baylor, the excitement the adrenaline, it sends a message. We have been able to generate new fans in the arena; it lets you know you are recognized as something that is excellent,” said head coach Kim Mulkey. “Putting us as something that everyone in Waco can be proud of.”

After beating the Longhorns (26-3,15-3) on the road the first time, 80-67, they knew the Longhorns would put up a fight in attempt to gain a share of the Big 12 title.

With a sold out crowd, both teams started to fight from the tipoff.

Struggling to get things going, the Lady Bears found themselves in foul trouble early on.

“You never know who’s going to give you what on any given night. I must say Kristi carried us tonight. You always to go out there and play hard from the jump,” Johnson said. “Just have to go out there and stay focused.”

The Longhorns found themselves in the bonus after controversial calls down on both ends.

However, the Longhorns continued to beat the Lady Bears down the floor and capitalize on open looks.

With the crowd disagreeing with the calls made by the officials by booing, the Lady Bears and their coaching staff were fired up to get things going their way.

Mulkey slammed her foot into the ground; which could sum up the emotion in the Ferrell Center.

Continuing to battle throw the calls, the Lady Bears found themselves up one with seconds remaining in the first. With sophomore guard Kristy Wallace drawing an offensive foul, the Lady Bears were able to keep possession and get the last shot in.

An off shot at the buzzer by Johnson showed how the Lady Bears performed in the first ten minutes. Although up one, 14-13

Shooting at 60.0 percent in the field compared to the Longhorns 36.4 percent from the field, the Lady Bears were able to fight through the bad calls and come out of the first ten minutes on top, 14-13.

A turnover by Johnson to start the second quarter to give the Longhorns a wide opened lay up, forced Mulkey to immediately call a timeout.

A rare six turnovers by Johnson on the game, showed how much her presence on the court influenced the game and play of the Lady Bears.

An and 1 by junior guard Nina Davis got the crowed going fired up.

Diving out-of-bounds to save a loose ball, Johnson got her team fired up.

With the Lady Bears extending their lead to six, Texas head coach Karen Aston called a timeout as the Lady Bears started gaining the momentum.

With the Lady Bears slowly getting back to their style of play, a three by junior guard Alexis Jones to end the half, gave the Lady Bears a 30-20 lead.

“At halftime I told them two things, quite turning over the ball and get back in transition defense,” Mulkey said. “And if you do those two things you will extend the lead.”

Picking up the foul and draining the jumper, Wallace was able to convert to give the Lady the momentum and set the tone of play.

A three by Wallace, followed by a lay in by Jones, allowed the Lady Bears to extend their lead to 14, 38-22.

Wallace was the difference maker for the Lady Bears by scoring 22 point, bringing in seven rebounds, and drawing two offensive fouls.

“I just did what I could do to help the team, I couldn’t have done it without these three senior right here,” Wallace said.

Wallace was on fire from the field, after draining another three the Lady Bears found themselves up 49-27.

With the crowd on the feet chanting, the Lady Bears found themselves up 60-30 going into the final 10 minutes of regulation.

Continuing to dominate the Lady Bears took home the win, 74-48.

“These moments they last forever, and it is just an honor to be in here with these girls,” Johnson said. “Yeah we won, but there is something bigger than this. It’s simple, eight is not enough and that is the mindset we have going into the Big 12 tournament.”

The Lady Bears next test will at the Big 12 tournament March 4th through the 12th.

“We are going to enjoy this, but we aren’t going to pat ourselves on the back next week,” Mulkey said. “We now go to the third stage in our season, which is the conference tournament, and then the fourth stage is the NCAA tournament.”