By DJ Ramirez | Sports Writer
OKLAHOMA CITY – The No.1-ranked Baylor women’s basketball team opened the Big 12 Championship with a 100-61 victory over Texas Tech on Saturday in the quarterfinal round.
The No. 9-seeded Lady Raiders defeated No. 8-seeded Oklahoma on Friday night 104-84, but their offense was no match for the Lady Bears, whose dominant defense and willingness to share the ball gave way for the win. Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey said that it’s that kind of gameplay that makes a team successful.
“That’s what wins championships: your defense and sharing the basketball,” Mulkey said. “We lead the country and if we don’t, we’re there at the top in assist-to-turnover ratio. We’re going to share the wealth and guard you on both ends of the floor.”
Every Lady Bear to hit the court against the Lady Raiders scored, with 52 of Baylor’s points coming off the bench. Baylor set a tournament record with seven players scoring in double figures. Senior guard Kalani Brown and freshman forward NaLyssa Smith led the team with 14 points each, with Smith totaling seven rebounds. None of the starters played in the last quarter, allowing the bench to close out the game. Freshman forward Cailtlin Bickle iced Baylor’s win with a three-point shot with a minute left in the fourth quarter.
The Lady Bears also recorded a tournament record 32 assists with sophomore guard Didi Richards leading the team with seven. Baylor scored 64 points in the paint and 24 points off turnovers.
Brown said that the depth of the bench is something that will be beneficial for Baylor going forward.
“Our bench is really deep. We have the numbers and we can put up different combinations of players for different styles of play which I think will help us in the NCAA Tourney going forward,” Brown said. “Today our bench did it for us and was able to get the starters off to rest and as long as we can keep playing like that we can go really far.”
Junior guard Juicy Landrum stole the ball from Tech sophomore guard Angel Hayden and made a fast break basket to put Baylor on the board less than a minute into the game. The Lady Raiders shot a couple of threes early in the contest, but the Lady Bears answered with five jumpers in the last three minutes to end the quarter with a score of 18-10. Sixteen of Baylor’s first quarter points were in the paint.
In the second quarter, the Lady Bears caught fire, going on a nine-point run over two minutes. Baylor then held Tech to a five-minute scoring drought beginning with a turnover by Tech senior forward Zuri Sanders at the eight-minute mark. The Red Raiders missed eight shots in that time span, while Baylor leveraged fifteen points during that period. The Lady Bears finished the half leading by 20 points at 45-25.
Baylor continued their command of the game, scoring another 27 points in the third quarter. Richards took a fastbreak and scored in the paint on an assist by Smith with 1:36 left to go in the period to make the score 67-39. Junior forward Lauren Cox then added two more points with a layup and with four seconds left until the fourth, freshman forward Aquira DeCosta shot a three to give Baylor a 28-point lead.
Less than a minute into the final quarter, Smith was fouled by Sanders to give Baylor the two free throws it needed for a 40-point lead. The Lady Bears hit three of their five 3-pointers in the fourth, including Bickle’s last shot, which drew a rousing reaction from the Baylor bench. Those backups outscored the Raiders 28-17 in the fourth quarter. Smith said that it was a point of pride for the Lady Bears not to allow Tech to cut into their lead.
“When we played them the first time, they cut the lead and we didn’t hear the end of it that time, so we had to make sure we maintained that lead and make sure they didn’t cut into it,” Smith said.
The Lady Bears will face Kansas State, who has won six straight games, in a semifinal match at 2 p.m. Sunday.