NORMAN, OKLA. — By the time Baylor tipped off at Oklahoma on Sunday afternoon, six different women’s basketball teams ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 had lost on the road. With a 4-0 start to Big 12 play by an average of 38.3 points and the nation’s leading scoring margin, no one inside the Lady Bear basketball program walked into Lloyd Noble Coliseum expecting the Sooners to hand over a victory on a silver platter.
Oklahoma came out and popped Baylor early, to the tune of a 22-16 lead after the first quarter, the first time since the loss at UCLA that the Lady Bears trailed after the first frame. But behind solid defensive play and a balanced offensive attack by the entire Baylor roster, the Lady Bears proved too much for the Sooners in a 74-52 victory.
“Sometimes you have to win ugly,” Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey said. “I thought that we tried our best to not let them get on a roll and hit a lot of 3s. ... I thought our defense was really good. We held them to less than 30 percent from the field for the game. When it got ugly on one end, make sure it’s just as ugly on other end.”
The Sooners are one of the hottest shooting teams in the Big 12 throughout conference play and shoot even better at home. Coming into Sunday’s contest, Oklahoma shot 49.6 percent from the floor and 35.6 percent from the perimeter.
Baylor held them to 26.8 percent.
“I thought our defense was pretty good today,” Mulkey said. “It was much better than anything else we did offensively except for (Cohen and Wallace). These two seniors came to play today. They had a sense of urgency knowing it was their last time at Norman. They left it all on the floor today. I’m proud of these two kids.”
Entering Sunday’s contest, the Sooners had been held to single digit points in a quarter once when they scored four in the second quarter against Oklahoma State on Jan. 7. The Lady Bears held them to eight points in each of the second and third quarters. After making eight field goals in the first quarter alone, the Sooners made a total of seven buckets the rest of the game.
When asked if Baylor changed anything defensively after the first quarter, Mulkey replied, “Nah. Just play man-to-man defense. Execute a little bit on the offensive end and keep grinding.”
While Oklahoma started off hot and cooled down, the Lady Bears started cool and then caught fire. And it wasn’t the usual –Kalani Brown and Lauren Cox – deadly pairing that helped Baylor get going offensively.
Brown played only three minutes in the first half, all of which came in the first quarter, while Cox played all but five minutes of the first half and had two points at intermission.
It was the entire Baylor team that rose up to the challenge. Dekeiya Cohen played out of her mind on both ends of the floor against Oklahoma. Her defense was key at the center position in the second quarter to help the Lady Bears take the lead, while she finished with 16 points which were two off her career high.
“She had one of the best games of her career,” Mulkey said. “She guarded Vionise Pierre-Louis when Kalani was on the bench and Cox kept playing behind and wasn’t moving her feet. Dekeiya took it upon herself and guarded her inside. And then she went outside and guarded there. She also had a couple put backs for us and nailed wide open shots.”
Kristy Wallace wasn’t far behind with 15 points on the afternoon. The senior guard only needed four of those points to score 1,000 points in her Baylor career. She is the 35th player to join the exclusive club. Brown hit 1,000 earlier this season at UCLA.
“It’s pretty special,” Wallace said. “It’s a credit to my teammates. The way we played today, it was a messy win, but we started to reverse the ball and move it to both sides of the floor. It’s a blessing.”
Natalie Chou was the other Lady Bear to finish in double digits with 12. Overall, Baylor finished the game shooting 49.2 percent from the floor after starting the game 5-of-14 from the field. In the second half alone, the Lady Bears shot 58 percent.
Baylor didn’t lead until less than two minutes remained in the first half. Oklahoma outscored the Lady Bears, 22-16 in the first quarter off better than 40 percent shooting from the floor and 66.7 percent from the 3-point line.
But Baylor upped the defense in the second quarter. The Sooners only went 2-for-13 from the field in the frame for eight points. Behind the defensive effort, the Lady Bears ended the first half on a 7-0 run and took the lead with them.
Down 26-30, Alexis Morris made a jumper before her 3-pointer gave Baylor a 31-30 lead with 1:19 to play in the half. Then it was a Chou layup that put the Lady Bears up by three at intermission. And it was all Baylor from that point on.
It helped that the Lady Bears got more than one look at the basket. Overall, Baylor outrebounded Oklahoma, 47-29, in addition to finishing with 10 offensive boards for 14 second chance points.
“We need those second chance shots because sometimes our offense is off a little bit,” Cohen said. “Those offensive rebounds give us a chance to get back out there, reset and get a better looking shot the second time.”