The Baylor players cut down the nets, confetti rained all over the floor, and the seniors hoisted yet another Big 12 championship trophy.
That makes seven straight for the Lady Bears but it never gets old.
With Saturday’s 86-48 thrashing of Texas Tech at the Ferrell Center, Baylor coach Kim Mulkey won her 500th career game in 17 years.
Mulkey was presented a diamond-encrusted Rolex watch and special Nike shoes inscribed with 500, and the Baylor players were handed shirts touting her latest milestone. But Mulkey said the celebration was more about the players than her.
“Listen, this is about these kids,” Mulkey said. “I’m humbled. That was a lot of people who put in a lot of time, money and effort to do what they did. That’s as classy as it gets. But it’s about them, it’s about their championship, and we’re going to enjoy their championship.”
One of the highlights of the celebration was a video presentation to Mulkey that included tributes from former players like Danielle Crockrom, Sheila Lambert and Sophia Young.
“That was emotional because some of those players go back to my very first recruiting class, my very first team,” Mulkey said. “I was OK until it got to my mother and then I lost it.”
It was senior day for Nina Davis, Alexis Prince, Alexis Jones and Khadijiah Cave who were honored in a halftime ceremony. But the seniors enjoyed watching some of the younger players’ reaction to winning the championship.
“You just live in the moment,” Davis said. “Today was all about that. Yes, we’ve been here and done it before, but each year is different. They’re different players and that’s the most exciting part seeing the freshmen seeing the confetti. Lauren (Cox) looked like a little kid in a candy store.”
On Monday night in Austin, Baylor’s streak was in jeopardy when Texas built a double-digit lead in the second half. But the Lady Bears rallied for a 70-67 win and then Iowa State upset Texas on Friday night to make the outright Big 12 championship celebration possible for Baylor before 7,055 fans at the Ferrell Center.
“How about that?” Mulkey said “It’s because of these kids. They understand when they come here this program is about championships and maintaining a level of excellence that’s elite. It’s never easy. I know people think it is but it’s not. There’s an expectation level that some kids can’t handle. These players come in here and buy into the system and it’s all about what they do.”
There was never much question the No. 4 Lady Bears (27-2, 16-1) would beat the Lady Raiders (12-16, 4-13) as they built a 17-point first quarter lead. Davis led Baylor with 16 points while Kalani Brown, Prince and Cox scored 13 apiece.
With Alexis Jones out with a knee injury, Kristy Wallace handled most of the ballhandling duties and dished out nine assists. Baylor used its size advantage to dominate the boards, 53-37, and held Texas Tech to a 27.5 shooting percentage.
“They just keep coming at you, and they’re really unique because of their ability to score in the paint and their ability to offensive board it,” said Texas Tech coach Candi Whitaker. “When you don’t have the size and depth to battle that, they win in that category every night out if you can’t match that. They’re really good.”
Baylor will complete the regular season against Oklahoma on Monday night in Norman before playing in the Big 12 tournament. But they were focused from the tipoff against the Lady Raiders.
The Lady Bears took most of the drama out of the game in the first quarter when they hit 12 of 19 shots and raced out to a 28-11 lead.
Davis scored the first two baskets and added two more later in the quarter. Brown gobbled up the paint and scored nine points while Prince was hot from the arc with a pair of 3-pointers.
It was more of the same in the second quarter as the Lady Bears extended their lead to 44-25 at halftime.
Cox came off the bench to score twice in the paint early in the quarter while Khadijiah Cave hit a pair of baskets. Brown closed the half with two more baskets to give her all of her 13 points at halftime.
Mulkey liberally distributed playing time in the second half as the Lady Bears finished off the win before the big celebration. However, she brought the seniors back into the game in the fourth quarter to allow them to get a last ovation from the crowd.
“I wanted to put them in in that second half one last time, so that they could get a standing ovation when I subbed for them,” Mulkey said. “And it was awesome that they could end their career here, regular season, with a championship, and celebrate it in front of their fans.”