Story by Nathan Keil | Sports Editor, Video by Elisabeth Tharp | Broadcast Reporter
Senior guard Kristy Wallace hit three threes and scored 20 points, leading a balanced Baylor attack as the Lady Bears gave No. 20 Kentucky its first loss of the season 90-63 as part of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge Thursday night in Waco.
Five other Lady Bears finished in double figures. Freshman guard Alexis Morris scored 15 points, sophomore guard Juicy Landrum scored 14 points, hitting all four of her three-point attempts. Sophomore forward Lauren Cox and junior center Kalani Brown both scored 13 points and senior forward Dekeiya Cohen added 10 points and nine rebounds.
Baylor shot 54 percent as a team, including nine of 17 beyond the arc while limiting Kentucky to 32 percent from the floor, but the Wildcats still connected on 11 of 19 threes.
Prior to the tip, Brown was recognized as she surpassed the 1,000 career points milestone in an 82-68 loss to No. 8 UCLA. Head coach Kim Mulkey presented her with a special Baylor basketball at midcourt.
But Brown wasn’t able to stay on the floor long in the first half. Brown attempted just one field goal and added a free throw before heading to the bench with two fouls with 1:17 left in the first quarter.
Mulkey said Brown’s early foul trouble has become an issue for the All-American, but it did allow others the chance to step for the Lady Bears.
“It’s big in that it helps us grow and it gives other people an opportunity to play minutes,” Mulkey said. “But if Kalani is going to be an All-American, she’s got to stop that. It’s become a pattern now and we don’t have enough depth for her to pick up those fouls and not contribute.”
But Brown’s absence didn’t hinder the Lady Bears as Wallace stepped up, contributing 15 first half points to help offset Kentucky’s hot start from three point range. The Wildcats hit five of eight from beyond the arc, but only connected on one of seven two point field goals as Baylor led 21-17 after one quarter.
Wallace said that because Kentucky’s defense was forced to double down in the post on Brown and Cox, it led to some open shots for her on the perimeter.
“I think they were just helping off onto the bigs and I was just open on the perimeter. The bigs were able to find me on the skip pass and I was able to execute from there,” Wallace said.
The Lady Bears began to seize control from Kentucky with a 13-2 run over a four-minute span in the second quarter, including five from Wallace as the Lady Bears built a 34-21 lead.
The Wildcats then trimmed the lead to seven at 39-32, Baylor ended the half on an 11-2 run, highlighted by three threes, including two from Landrum, as the Lady Bears led 50-34 at the break.
As the second half started, Brown asserted herself on the offensive end. On the first two Lady Bears’ possessions, the wings fed Brown in the post and she backed her way down toward the middle for two easy layups. Then on the defensive end, she came up with three blocks and contested every Kentucky basket in the paint.
A heavy dose of Brown and Baylor’s defense that held Kentucky without a field goal helped the Lady Bears increase their lead 33 at 73-40 with a 23-6 third quarter advantage.
Kentucky did manage to outscore Baylor 23-17 in the fourth quarter, but by then it was much too late.
Even with Brown in foul trouble the entire first half, the Lady Bears completely dominated the paint, outscoring Kentucky 46-12. Baylor held the advantage on the boards 42-36 and bench points 31-19.
Junior guard Maci Morris led Kentucky with 20 points, including five threes. Sophomore guard Jaida Roper had 12 while senior guard Makenzie Cann and junior guard Taylor Murray both scored 10 points for the Wildcats.
Morris said she believes the loss will help the Wildcats in the long run.
As soon as I got in the locker room, I told the team, ‘We got better today,’” Morris said. “Even though we lost, I saw a lot of things. We could have gave up in the fourth quarter, but everybody kept playing as hard as they can.”
Baylor (6-1) welcomes No. 16 Stanford at 1 p.m Sunday at the Ferrell Center.