Lauren Cox played every minute of Thursday’s Baylor victory over Texas. While the Longhorns threw five different forwards at the 6-4 sophomore and her 6-7 front court mate Kalani Brown, the duo couldn’t be contained.
Brown played 32 minutes due to foul trouble, and as Dekeiya Cohen and Didi Richards subbed in and out, Cox remained on the floor. She never appeared tired or unable to continue running up and down the floor, not to mention banging inside defensively against the Longhorn bigs. For a clear sign Cox had her legs under her the entire game, the sophomore finished shooting 6-for-10 from the floor for 17 points in addition hitting a perfect 5-for-5 at the free-throw line.
It wasn’t all about points, though for the Baylor big. That’s the beauty of this Lady Bear team. There’s no need for “hero ball,” where one player takes over the offense and tries to create something one-on-one instead of passing the ball before someone takes a high-percentage shot.
Cox is the second-best passer on this Baylor team, and 10th best in the Big 12 with 3.4 assists per game. She finished with four dimes to only one turnover against the Longhorns on Thursday.
“They’ve just gotten so much better at post to post passing that it’s very difficult to double,” Texas head coach Karen Aston said. “Those guards are making shots. With Wallace playing the way she did, they’re hard to beat. But, again, they’ve gotten much more polished with their post to post passing. Those guys have good chemistry. It makes it tough to defend them.”
It wasn’t just passing to Brown inside. When the double team came at Cox, Cox’s teammate who the defender doubled off of cut toward the basket. And Cox dished the ball to her open teammate.
For the fifth-straight game, and after pulling down a career-high 19 boards against Kansas State, Cox grabbed 10 rebounds against Texas. It marked the fifth-straight game for the sophomore to pull down double digit rebounds. Cox is second in the league with 9.9 boards per game.
Her effort on the glass, along with her teammates, was key in Baylor’s 25-point win. Not only did the Lady Bears score 22 points off 16 offensive rebounds, but Baylor pulling down 77 percent of the Longhorns’ misses was a big part in the Lady Bears holding a Texas team who came into Baylor averaging 47.1 percent from the floor to 31.3 percent.
It also helps to have two giants anchor a defense.
The quick Texas guards love to penetrate. That’s been the Longhorns’ offense in the halfcourt — whether clearing out and isolating an entire side for a guard to drive, or attacking off a pick and roll — as the drives either get a guard an open shot at the basket or, when the help side defense comes, passing to the open teammate.
But when the Longhorns drove against Baylor, they were met by 6-4 Cox and 6-7 Brown inside. While Cox did finish with six blocks on the night, she altered many more. She played well one-on-one defense but also fared well on help side. Multiple times, when a guard drove toward the basket, she was met by the long arms of Cox.
“Their size and their length definitely make it a little more difficult,” Texas guard Lashann Higgs said.
Cox has found her fit with this Lady Bear squad. As the top recruit in the country two years ago, Cox averaged 7.6 points and 4.1 rebounds in 13.4 minutes per contest last year as a freshman. She was named the Big 12 Sixth Man and was a unanimous selection to the Big 12 All-Freshman Team.
This year, her minutes have doubled to 27.6 per game. And her game has increased to match. Cox, shooting 50.9 percent from the floor, is averaging nearly a double-double with 15.1 points and 9.9 rebounds.
“I say this, Kalani was here and Cox came anyway,” Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey said. “So the unselfishness of Cox to want to come to this program when you had Beatrice (Mompremier) and you had Kalani and you had Nina Davis and KK Cave and the list goes on. But she wanted to come play with her and she wanted to be a part of this program. We didn’t know we would be down to nine with a transfer, an injury and giving up the game and things like that. So, it’s allowed (Cox and Brown) to play more minutes together which is only going to make them better.”