FORT WORTH — A little over a week ago, Kalani Brown and Didi Richards wandered into the media room long before interviews were scheduled to take place. With grins on their faces, they mock answered different questions, some as themselves, some as their teammates, some as Kim Mulkey, before Richards decided Dekeiya Cohen needed to be in on the action. So the freshman FaceTimed her and the three of them just laughed and laughed.
It’s this bond, this chemistry the third-ranked Baylor team has talked about all season. While it’s hard to quantify just how close this group is, the Lady Bears got dang close to putting numbers to this bond in their 85-53 win over TCU Saturday evening inside Schollmaier Arena.
“Yeah, I think our bond kind of showed tonight,” senior guard Kristy Wallace said. “We stuck together. We grinded together some nitty gritty stuff, and I think that Juicy stood up tonight. Alexis Morris took on the point guard really well. And we were able to sit Kalani. So, just having these girls coming off the bench and being ready and being so young and still playing like veterans is pretty cool.”
Everyone was in on the action in Fort Worth. For the first time since Baylor’s win at Texas Tech Feb. 3, five different Lady Bears finished in double figures. Wallace led the way with 19, followed by Juicy Landrum and Dekeiya Cohen each with 16. Kalani Brown added 12, while Lauren Cox had 11.
Lady Bear fans have seen how close this group is all season long. It’s evident in the way the players on the bench leap to their feet when another teammate does well on the floor.
It was evident at Oklahoma after Lauren Cox took a hard fall and Kalani Brown ran over to her teammate with a smile on her face and examined Cox’s arms like a doctor. And then later in the season inside the Ferrell Center when Brown gave a look to an opposing player who tried to strip a defensive rebound from her hands, Wallace stood nearby waiting for the ball and laughing a little at her teammate.
“I believe we have no selfishness on this team,” Brown said. “Everybody is for everybody. I think that’s why we’re so successful because we’re going to need each other regardless. We don’t have that much depth. I think each player, playing or not playing, has brought something to the table. I think that’s why we’re so successful.”
There’s no star player that carries this Baylor team by herself. Despite Brown’s play this season, TCU coach Raegan Pebley made an interesting point after the Horned Frogs played the Lady Bears in Waco two weeks ago.
Who is Brown’s MVP?
There’s no one answer to this question which is what makes Baylor so dangerous. As a fan mentioned Saturday evening in Fort Worth, “No one on their team misses.”
It can be Cox whose presence draws attention away from solely focusing on Brown inside. It can be Dekeiya Cohen who must be blocked out any time a shot is put up. It can be Didi Richards who, like Cohen, can bury a midrange jump shot. It can be Alexis Morris whose speed is too quick to handle and can bury a floater or drain a triple. It can be Juicy Landrum whose 3-point prowess draws a lot of attention from defenses as they have to find someone else to help off of. And it most certainly can be Kristy Wallace. She’s been called the team’s “Energizer Bunny” a plethora of times and can run the offense, distribute the ball and drain the big-time bucket.
All of this was seen against the Horned Frogs on Saturday. This type of balance hasn’t been just a one-time occurrence.
“It was good balance,” Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey said. “And I thought TCU mixing their defenses – man, zone – kept us on our toes a little bit. I thought we hit some big shots. 17-0 in the league and we’ve got one more to go.”
Running the table in the Big 12 is the next goal on the list for the Lady Bears. Mulkey brought up to her team that in her 18 years at Baylor, the Lady Bears had gone undefeated through Big 12 play only twice (2011-12, 2012-13).
“This team is on a mission,” Mulkey said. “I’ve only had two teams run the table in conference. I brought that to their attention. We’ve won the league, but as a competitor you don’t want to lose. There’s only been two others in my 18 years that have run the table. That’s something they should shoot for. So, we’re one game away from being the third team in my time at Baylor that’s run the table.”