Story by Nathan Keil | Sports Editor, Video by Elisabeth Tharp | Broadcast Reporter
Looking for its second straight win over a Top 25 opponent at home, Baylor overwhelmed visiting Stanford with a heavy dose of junior center Kalani Brown and some stifling defense as the Lady Bears led from start to finish in an 81-57 victory Sunday at the Ferrell Center.
Brown finished with 28 points, including 20 by halftime. In 35 minutes, she hit 12 of her 16 shots from the floor and four of her six free throws as Stanford had no answer for her in the paint.
It wasn’t just Brown that the Cardinal couldn’t stop in the paint. The Lady Bears outscored the visitors from Palo Alto, Calif. 54-18 in the paint and outrebounded the Cardinal 55-39.
Baylor’s defense gave Stanford fits all game long, holding the Cardinal to 29 percent shooting from the game. Stanford got more than half of its points from three-point range as it hit 10 threes, but attempted 38, good for just 26 percent.
The dominance in the paint for Baylor and the poor shooting for Stanford were themes present from the opening tip.
The Lady Bears fed their two stars in the paint, Brown and sophomore forward Lauren Cox early and often en route to a 9-0 run to open the game.
Brown had 10 points in the opening quarter and unlike Thursday’s game against Kentucky where Brown scored just three points in the first half due to two early fouls, Brown was able to stay out of foul trouble, making her the viable offensive option for the Lady Bears early.
Senior guard Kristy Wallace said the Lady Bears played with great energy in the first quarter and were executing based on Stanford’s defense.
“We started off really well. We came out ready to play. We knew the scout, and we knew what to do. We just had to execute,” Wallace said. “We were able to get out there and run. The big girls were finishing. They let big girls shoot at the top of the key, and they were just executing that, so credit to the team. They did a really good job.”
On the flip side, Stanford, who made it to the Final Four a year ago, but already has three losses this season, dug themselves a hole early and could never recover.
The Cardinal hit just two of 16 from the field in the opening quarter with both field goals coming from beyond the arc. Stanford also committed seven turnovers in the first 10 minutes, leading to six points for the Lady Bears and got into foul trouble, putting the Bears in the bonus early.
In the second, Stanford began to show why it remains the Top 25 despite the early losses. The Cardinal knocked down a few shots and took better care of the basketball, only committing three turnovers, in using an 11-2 run over a four minute span to get the deficit under 10 at 35-26.
But Baylor responded in the final two minutes, getting another basket from Brown and a deep two point jump shot from Wallace to push the lead back to 13 at 39-26 at halftime.
In the second half, Stanford was able to trim the lead to eight at 39-31, but from that forward Baylor regained control and put the cardinal away for good.
The Lady Bears pushed the lead back to double digits at 42-31 on a three from sophomore guard Natalie Chou, the first of only two hit by Baylor in the game.
Baylor extended its lead to 20 early in the fourth quarter following a bucket from Cox. Cox, who finished with 15 points, 15 rebounds and six assists, knocked down the only other Baylor three pointer with a minute left to go in the game. A basket by freshman guard Alexis Morris in the final seconds gave Baylor the 81-57 win.
Wallace followed up her 20-point performance against Kentucky with another good al-around performance, finishing with 15 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists.
Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey said that Wallace’s performance was the catalyst for Baylor’s success against the Cardinal.
“I thought this kid right here set the tone for our basketball team,” Mulkey said. “No turnovers, almost played 40 minutes in the game, almost had a triple-double. She didn’t try to do too much. She made the right passes. She made hustle plays. She may have had her finest game in her career at Baylor today.”
Foul trouble was an issue for Stanford early and progressed throughout the game. The Cardinal finished with 19 total fouls, but senior forward Kaylee Johnson fouled out in only 12 minutes of play while junior forward Alanna Smith, who finished with 11 points, finished with four.
Junior center Shannon Coffee led Stanford with 14 points while freshman guard Kiana Williams added 13, but was only four of 15 from the field in 34 minutes.
This forced the Stanford bench to play a major factor scoring wise, as the Cardinal bench scored the first 18 points of the game and finished with 39 points to 11 for Baylor’s bench.
Stanford, who lost just six times last year on its way to the Final Four, loses for the fourth time this season. A big reason for that has been the schedule, as the Cardinal have lost to Top 10 Ohio State twice and No. 1 Connecticut to go along with No. 9 Baylor.
Baylor improves to 7-1 on the season and has added two wins over Top 25 teams in Kentucky and Stanford and a Junkanoo Jam championship to its resume since an early 82-68 loss at then No. 8 UCLA on Nov. 18.
The Lady Bears look to make it five straight when they host North Dakota at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Ferrell Center.