By Jessika Harkay | Sports Writer, Video by Julia Lawrenz | Broadcast Managing Editor
When the No. 2 Lady Bears were held under 60 points for the first time since 2016 and to 35.6% shooting from the field, no one panicked because under head coach Kim Mulkey, Baylor knows that defense is the most important part of playing four full quarters and coming out on top.
“Defense at the end of the day. We knew if we couldn’t score on offense, as long as they don’t score, we’re going to win the game,” junior guard DiDi Richards said.
The defense held out in their 58-46 victory against No. 22 South Florida, keeping the Bulls under their season average of 73.3 points and shooting percentage (41.2%). The Lady Bears clawed at the South Florida offense, limiting the Bulls just to 28.8% from the field with 17 turnovers.
It was a battle though, as the Lady Bears also struggled with 18 turnovers of their own and being out-rebounded 36-33 — fifteen of which, the Bulls notched on offense and converted for 10 second-chance points.
Regardless, the battle was fun for the head coach to see as the team adapts to missing their senior post Lauren Cox.
“We basically had two players from last year’s championship team on the floor,” Mulkey said. “NaLyssa [Smith] was a role player last year. Queen [Egbo] was a role player last year, and now you’re inserting those kids in the starting line up. We don’t have our leader out there. You got a new point guard — so we battled.”
Sophomore center Queen Egbo was able to step up as she led the team with 16 points and 10 rebounds, her first double-double of the season and fourth of her career. The win against the Bulls marks the second week the sophomore replaced Cox in the paint.
“I want to have presence,” Egbo said. “If we’re not getting much on the outside, I know they need me to get something on the inside. I was just thinking, ‘Get the ball in your hands. Get to the rim. Get contact and make them foul you and finish.’”
The Lady Bears were able to draw 39 fouls, 25 of which accounted for nearly half of Baylor’s points.
Baylor’s 16 field goals mark the fewest in a matchup since 2015. Struggling offensively, Mulkey said the team just has to find its rhythm without their senior giant.
“They know what they’re supposed to do, but what they don’t see is what everybody else is supposed to do and what your next option is,” Mulkey said. “Cox has the ability to make everyone around her better. Right now we’re struggling to find out who that person is because everybody’s working hard, everybody’s trying to do good and do their job, but there’s just not a flow there right now offensively.”
After sweeping their first three matchups 329-117, Richards called the victory a “wake up call.”
“We’ve kind of been coasting, you know, the beginning of the season,” Richards said. “I think this was good going into the Virgin Islands. I’m happy to see that we did have the ability to overcome adversity.”
The Lady Bears next host Lamar at 7 p.m. Thursday.