Nine straight: Lady Bears wrap up Big 12 title with win over Kansas

Story by DJ Ramirez | Sports Writer, Video by Noah Torr | Executive Producer

The No. 1-ranked Baylor women’s basketball team clinched its ninth consecutive Big 12 regular season title on Wednesday with an 80-40 win against Kansas. This title is head coach Kim Mulkey’s 19th conference title in 19 years as head coach.

Mulkey said winning the conference never gets old for the Lady Bears.

“If it gets old, I need to get out. Then it’d be time to retire,” Mulkey said. “I don’t want it to get old for the fans. I don’t want anybody to ever take this for granted. It’s hard. Sometimes because of the talent we have, the kids I get to coach, they make it look easy. But it’s not easy. … This is one of our goals, but we have bigger goals down the road. It’s going to be a challenge to win these next four games.”

The game began at a slow pace but picked up as the Lady Bears gained momentum throughout the first half. Junior guard Juicy Landrum started Baylor off with a jumper and was immediately fouled on to add another point on a free throw. Kansas fought back to tie the game twice in the first quarter, but the Lady Bears managed to regain the lead both times, ending the first period with a score of 13-9.

Baylor picked up steam in the second quarter going on a 16-0 run over three minutes. Landrum hit the first 3-pointer of the night for the Lady Bears a minute into the second period to put Baylor up 16-11.

Baylor accumulated a 20-point lead which was topped off with a layup by sophomore guard Didi Richards to put the Lady Bears ahead 37-17 with 26 seconds left on the clock. Kansas then managed to sneak in a layup to make the score 37-19 at the end of the first half.

Baylor scored 18 of its first half points in the paint and had nine second chance points. The Lady Bears shot 42.4 percent from the field and made all of their free throws as Kansas had 10 fouls in the first half.

In the third quarter, junior forward Lauren Cox and sophomore guard Moon Ursin added to the lead with a couple of free throws. Richards then made a layup and was followed by senior guard Chloe Jackson with a jumper to put the Lady Bears ahead 48-25 with 4:23 left in the quarter. With 22 seconds left in the third, Landrum hit a 3-pointer to make the score 56-32.

The last three minutes of the fourth quarter saw six Baylor freshmen on the court to wrap up the game. Freshman forward Caitlin Bickle came off the bench for freshman guard Trinity Oliver and immediately went on a run to put the Lady Bears up 78-40 after which freshman forward Aquira DeCosta sealed Baylor’s win with a layup in the paint.

Freshman forward NaLyssa Smith said that this win is just the beginning for the Lady Bears.

“We’re hoping to get farther than we did last year, so this is just the beginning,” Smith said.

The Lady Bears out-rebounded Kansas 48-26. Landrum scored a game-high 20 points and Cox had the most assists for the Lady Bears with six.

Senior center Kalani Brown had 14 rebounds and 11 points to reach 1,000 career rebounds and 2,000 career points. Mulkey said she was aware that Brown was near the landmark and pushed the rest of her team to give her that opportunity.

“I thought it was only appropriate that Cox was the one to give her the pass,” Mulkey said. “I was aware she needed seven [more], and I thought part of that was Kalani just standing there and letting them double or triple team her. We’ve got to figure out how to get her more touches, and we did.”

Baylor ended the night with a 45.3 field goal percentage and were 88.9 percent from the free throw line. Kansas totaled up 19 fouls to the Lady Bears’ 13. Baylor also had 21 assists and only six turnovers, 10 less than the Lady Jayhawks.

While the Lady Bears are going to take the time to celebrate their title, they still have four more regular season games to play before the Big 12 Championship tournament. Mulkey said Baylor’s work isn’t done.

“We understand this is something to celebrate and be happy about but we got to come back to work tomorrow, hit the road Friday and go to Iowa State,” Mulkey said.

The Lady Bears will hit the road to face Iowa State at 3 p.m. on Saturday and will return to the Ferrell Center on Monday for a game against Texas.