By Jessika Harkay | Sports Writer
After claiming a share of their ninth straight Big 12 regular season championship with a win over Kansas on Wednesday at the Ferrell Center, the No. 1 ranked Lady Bears are now tied for the 10th-longest regular-season conference championship win-streak in Division-I women’s basketball history.
Under head coach Kim Mulkey, the Lady Bears are 261-55 (.826) all-time versus Big 12 opponents and gained their 19th (regular season and tournament championship) title. Yet even with growing momentum, Mulkey said the feeling of winning the Big 12 regular-season championship will never get old.
“If it gets old, I need to get out,” Mulkey said. “I don’t want anybody to ever take this for granted. It is so hard. Sometimes because of the talent we have, the kids I get to coach, they make it look easy. But it’s not easy. We just have to keep feeding this monster. This is one of our goals, but we have bigger goals down the road.”
The Big 12 Conference began in 1997. Before the Lady Bears’ nine straight regular-season championship run began in 2011, the program only had one win – in 2005.
For senior center Kalani Brown, the ninth regular-season championship win wasn’t the only highlight of the night. She reached a career milestone of 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds, Brown is the seventh Baylor athlete to reach those statistics.
This season alone, the Lady Bears lead the Big 12 in scoring margin, field goal percentage, blocks, assists and rebounding — creating a consistent and well-rounded team.
Especially with over a third of the team being underclassmen, the “champion” feeling is something new to many of the Lady Bears. Freshman forward NaLyssa Smith said it’s an honor to be a part of a championship team.
“It feels great,” Smith said. “I’ve never cut a net before, so for my first time to be here, it’s an honor. It’s just a blessing.”
Sophomore guard Didi Richards echoed Smith’s sentiments, saying that she hopes Baylor’s success continues in the coming years.
“It never feels real until it really happens,” Richards said. “I love this feeling. I hope to do it two more times.”
Even with the team accomplishment, the starting lineup consisting of senior guard Chloe Jackson, junior guard Juicy Landrum, Richards, junior forward Lauren Cox and Brown, all contributed to their personal record books in the win over the Jayhawks.
Cox, who led the team with six assists and gave Brown the pass for her record, finished with a 26th career double-double night with 11 points and 12 rebounds.
Landrum and Jackson finished with double-digit points for the 26th and 62nd time in their careers.
The Lady Bears next take on Iowa State at 3 p.m. Saturday in Ames, Iowa.
When the Lady Bears last faced Iowa State on Jan. 23, the Lady Bears knocked the Cyclones off 84-69. Jackson and Cox had a big game, Jackson with 11 assists and Cox with 22 points, reaching her 1,000-point mark.
Heading into their second matchup against one another this season, the Cyclones come in on a two-game win-streak (20-6) and right behind Baylor in the Big 12 standings. Knowing Iowa State is coming into the game hungry, Mulkey said the Lady Bears just need to stay focused.
“It’s going to be a challenge to win these last four games,” Mulkey said. “We’re playing three of the four teams that are tied for second place. It’s not going to be an easy road.”