Lady Bears rout California to advance to Sweet 16

Freshman forward Lauren Cox comes up against a Cal defender in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Monday in the Ferrell Center. Photo credit: Penelope Shirey

The No. 1-seeded Baylor Lady Bears basketball team defeated No. 9-seed California 86-46 Monday night at the Ferrell Center to advance to the Sweet 16.

The Lady Bears (32-3) used a balanced scoring attack and strong defense to oust the Golden Bears (20-14) and advance to the Oklahoma City Regional.

Every player that played more than two minutes scored for the Lady Bears. Head coach Kim Mulkey says that depth is crucial to Baylor’s postseason success.

“I thought our depth has surfaced big time in these two playoff games,” Mulkey said. “We knew we had depth. We’ve seen it all year. You’ve seen them play. But you don’t know how they’re going to produce in the NCAA Tournament.”

Cal head coach Lindsay Gottlieb said that Baylor should be favored to make it all the way to the Final Four after the way they played against the Golden Bears.

“They have a darned good team,” Gottlieb said. “I know they have to go to Oklahoma City first, but I think they have a great chance to be playing down the road here in Dallas and a shot to win the National Championship.”

Cal went to star center Kristine Anigwe early, letting her drive to the basket and attack Baylor sophomore center Kalani Brown. Anigwe scored five of the team’s first seven points as the Lady Bears and Golden Bears went back and forth in the opening minutes.

Senior guard Alexis Prince drained a corner three and senior guard Alexis Jones drove the lane in transition and scored to cap a 9-0 Baylor run as the Lady Bears went up 15-7 halfway through the first quarter.

A jumper from Prince with a minute left stopped a three-minute scoring drought for the Lady Bears, but Cal guard Mikayla Cowling knocked down a 3-pointer to make it a 17-12 Baylor lead at the end of one quarter.

Anigwe kept Cal in the game early in the second quarter, knocking down two free throws and scoring in the post to cut the Baylor lead to 22-16.

The Lady Bears then went on an 13-0 run that included back-to-back threes from freshman guard Natalie Chou as Baylor extended the lead to 35-16 with four minutes remaining in the half.

Junior guard Kristy Wallace said Chou’s shots changed the momentum and that she is glad to see some of Chou’s shots go down.

“Nat hit some key shots, and that was a huge momentum shifter,” Wallace said. “I know she’s been working hard on her threes, so it was great to kind of find her, and […] she hit them, which as really exciting.”

Jones’ second 3-pointer of the game came with one minute left in the half as the Lady Bears took a 40-20 lead into halftime.

At the break, Jones led the Lady Bears in scoring with eight points while Anigwe scored 11 for the Golden Bears on 5-for-6 shooting from the free throw line.

The offense came alive for both teams in the third quarter with the Lady Bears and Golden Bears combining for 24 points in just the first six minutes of the quarter.

The Lady Bears continued to attack the paint, getting contributions from Brown and senior forward Nina Davis as they took a 50-22 lead. Anigwe refused to let up, scoring on an and-one opportunity while teammate Courtney Range drained a floater and a 3-pointer to make it a 54-30 game.

Prince leaked out in transition twice to get to the free throw line and get an easy layup to put the Lady Bears up 60-31.

The Golden Bears went in to Anigwe at the end of the quarter as she scored two more times, but the Lady Bears still held a 65-33 lead at the end of three quarters.

Baylor started the fourth quarter on a 9-2 run, forcing Gottlieb to call a timeout just two minutes into the final quarter.

Mulkey put in senior post Khadijiah Cave in the fourth quarter, allowing her to get minutes in her last game at the Ferrell Center.

Cave knocked down two jumpers, and Davis managed a steal and a floater to put the Lady Bears up 82-39 before Mulkey took out Cave, Davis, Jones and Prince to a standing ovation from the crowd.

Davis said the seniors wanted to give the fans a show in their last home game despite the emotions tied to the game.

“It’s a bittersweet thing,” Davis said. “We wanted to just leave our mark here. Of course you wanted to give the fans an exciting game, and I just wanted my last game here to be a good one. “

Prince and Davis had 16 points each for the Lady Bears while Anigwe posted a double-double of 20 points and 11 rebounds for the Golden Bears.

Baylor will face No. 4 seed Louisville Friday in Oklahoma City.