Story by Nathan Keil | Sports Editor, Video by Elisabeth Tharp
The letters CS were visible in matching emblems on both sides of the court in the Ferrell Center Thursday night. A tribute video ran before the National Anthem, commemorating the life of former Lady Bear Chameka Scott, who died Sunday after a battle with cancer. With Scott’s family and former teammates in attendance, Baylor was determined to play with the toughness that Scott was known for on and off the court.
That toughness was on full display from the opening tipoff to the final whistle. The Lady Bears used a ferocious defense that held Texas to 31 percent from the floor as they took firm control of the Big 12 with an 81-56 win over No. 6 Texas.
It was the Lady Bears’ defense that set the tone early. Baylor was able to cut off the driving lanes for the Longhorns’ guards and force the posts into difficult, contested shots. Texas not only couldn’t find much room going to the rim, it couldn’t the range from distance, failing to connect on a three-pointer until the 3:04 mark of the third quarter.
Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey said the defense was the catalyst for the Lady Bears’ success against Texas.
“Our defense was pretty special again tonight. Against a team that is that talented to hold them to 31 percent from the field,” Mulkey said. “That’s listening to the scouting report, helping your teammates, altering shots, keeping them in front of you on transition defense. We emphasized that all week long.”
Texas senior guard Brooke McCarty, who averages nearly 14 points a game, was frustrated all night, finishing with 16 points, but was just five of 19 shooting from the floor, a testament to the defense by Baylor senior guard Kristy Wallace.
It wasn’t just Wallace’s defense that was on display against the Longhorns, her offense was clicking on all cylinders as she finished with a career-high 27 points on 11 of 16 from the floor. She chipped in with seven rebounds and four assists as well, further showing her playmaking ability and versatility. Wallace, the Queensland, Australia native did it all—transition layups, three-point shots, midrange jumpers and finishing strong through contact. The Longhorns had no answer for her.
Wallace said she was looking to be aggressive, but it was the work of her post players that helped open things up for her.
“I think I was looking to attack. Our bigs were doing a great job inside and they started helping out,” Wallace said. “I thought that I could attack from the perimeter, knock down a few shots and it all started to open up.”
It was Wallace who got the Lady Bears going early. She went coast to coast twice in the opening minutes against the Longhorns for two early buckets.
When the Longhorns did get back, Wallace and the Baylor backcourt looked eager to feed its bread and butter—junior center Kalani Brown and sophomore forward Lauren Cox, who despite Texas’ matching size, still finished in the post as the Lady Bears jumped out to an early 14-11 lead.
Baylor continued to feed the post, as Cox continued to show off her footwork, finishing at the rim and making a living at the free throw line. Cox converted all five of her first quarter attempts as the Lady Bears ended the quarter on a 6-0 run in grabbing a 28-18 lead.
Baylor kept its foot on the gas pedal, using a 12-1 run in the second to extend the lead to 42-21 before taking a 44-27 lead into the break.
In the second half, it was too much Brown in the post for Texas to handle. The Longhorns’ interior defense was unable to keep her out of the lane, as Brown repeatedly finished with ease at the basket, tossing in nine points and grabbing four rebounds in the third quarter.
Even with a 22-point lead heading into the fourth, the Baylor defense never lit up, holding Texas scoreless for the first three and a half minutes and without a field goal for the first five minutes of the final quarter.
Baylor controlled the paint, outscoring Texas 44-22 and outrebounding the Longhorns 49-34. Brown finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds before fouling out, while Cox finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds.
The Lady Bears also got strong efforts from freshman guards Alexis Morris and Didi Richards, who made their first appearance in the rivalry. Morris finished with eight points and four rebounds while Richards finished with eight points and eight rebounds.
For Texas, junior guard Lashann Higgs finished with 13 points and senior guard Ariel Atkins chipped in with 11 points and nine rebounds.
Texas drops to 15-4, 6-2 in the conference.
Texas head coach Karen Aston said the Longhorns can’t afford to let their effort against Baylor beat them more than once.
“We have to move on. We got to get on the bus, go home and lick our wounds and get ready for Iowa State,” Aston said. “The hard thing about a league loss is you can’t let it turn into two or three. We can’t do that. We’re too good of a team to let one bad performance turn into two or three bad ones.”
Baylor improves to 18-1, 8-0 in the conference. The Lady Bears have now won 16 of the last 17 games against Texas.
No. 3 Baylor will take on West Virginia at 2 p.m. Sunday in Morgantown, W.Va.