No one has been able to come up with any answers on how to contain Baylor’s Kalani Brown and Lauren Cox.
So far, the 6-foot-7 junior center and the 6-foot-4 sophomore forward have combined for more than 40 percent of ninth-ranked Baylor’s total offense as they’re averaging a double-double — Brown with 24.2 points and 10.3 rebounds per game while Cox has put up 17.4 points and 10.4 boards per contest. Both are shooting better than 50 percent from the floor, with Brown hitting at a staggering 76.6 percent rate to lead the country. And on the other end of the court, Cox has denied 18 shots for an average of 3.6 per game that is fifth in the nation.
“I think we click,” Cox said. “We work really well together. I think we pass really well together. We know where they want the ball, where each other wants the ball, when we need to throw it to them. When I throw the ball to Kalani, I know she is going to finish.”
The duo continued to dominate as the Lady Bears won the Junkanoo Jam tournament last week in Bimini, Bahamas. Brown was named the tournament MVP as she totaled 43 points and 10 rebounds through two games. Cox pick up All-Tournament team honors as she racked up a total of 40 points, 26 rebounds and 10 blocks.
On Wednesday, Brown was named to the 2018 Citizen Naismith Award Watch List as well as the 2018 Wade Trophy Watch List. The Wade Watch List of candidates includes 25 players selected by the WBCA NCAA Division I Coaches’ All-America Selection Committee. Four finalists will be announced mid-March and the winner will be announced during ESPN2’s telecast of the 2018 NCAA Women’s Final Four national semifinal games on March 30. The Citizen Naismith Player of the Year watch list includes 50 players chosen by the Atlanta Tipoff Club. A list of the midseason 30 team will be announced on Feb. 12.
Earlier in the week, Cox received Big 12 Player of the Week after her performance a week ago in addition to being named to the NCAA.com’s Starting Five.
While Brown and Cox have played well thus far, they weren’t the only Lady Bears who garnered awards this week. Alexis Morris was named the Big 12 Freshman of the Week. The guard averaged 14.0 points, 2.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists off the bench in the Bahamas.
“Talent-wise, she is as good as any we’ve ever had at the point guard position,” Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey said. “The little things that we talked about, Alexis and I during the game, are clean up turnovers. You don’t realize how a turnover can change an entire game, you can have a multitude of turnovers in high school, when you are just better than everybody else and you can make up for it. In college, those turnovers eventually cost you. … She has unbelievable speed and quickness. She’s hit some big shots for us so I am not surprised at all.”
Now, the Lady Bears gear up to host No. 20 Kentucky at 7 p.m. Thursday inside the Ferrell Center as part of the Big 12/SEC Challenge. The Wildcats are off to a 6-0 start for the fifth time under head coach Matthew Mitchell. Kentucky went 2-0 last week with wins over Morehead State and Marshall at home.
Maci Morris leads the Wildcat offense with 15.3 points per game off 50 percent shooting from the 3-point line. Taylor Morris controls the tempo of the game for Kentucky with her speed as she averages 13.5 points in addition to 25 assists on the year.
Inside, a pair of 6-foot-3 centers in freshman Dorie Harrison and senior Alyssa Rice have the task of containing the Baylor bigs.
“I know they are very athletic,” Mulkey said. “We better get back in transition defense. I know they have three starters back from a team that tied for third in the SEC, I think six of their eight scorers are back. Obviously, when you look at Kalani and you look at Cox, they are not going to be many teams bigger than us in size. They are not as big as we are in size, but they certainly match up with us well on the perimeter.”
The all-time series between Baylor and Kentucky is tied at 2-2. Thursday is the first time the two teams have met since the Wildcats defeated the Lady Bears, 74-64, on Nov. 17, 2014. Baylor is 1-0 against Kentucky in Waco with an 85-51 victory on Nov. 13, 2012.
Baylor’s second win in the series came in the 2014 Sweet 16 in South Bend, Ind., when Baylor posted a 90-72 win over the Wildcats. Kentucky’s other win came in a classic on Dec. 6, 2013, when the Wildcats topped Baylor, 133-130, in overtime. At the time, the 263 combined points set a new NCAA record.
“We are excited to be hosting it,” Mulkey said. “We went to Kentucky several years ago early in the season and we didn’t win, yet we had a great season after that, so it is an opportunity to play two quality opponents here in a matter of two or three days.”