Central Arkansas didn’t back down. And when it seemed as if the Sugar Bears had made a momentum-shifting shot, Natalie Chou was there to shut things down. The sophomore, who finished last season shooting 42.3 percent from deep, knocked down multiple big-time shots for No. 3 Baylor as the Lady Bears took home a 86-55 win over Central Arkansas Tuesday night inside the Ferrell Center to end their three game stretch in five days.
“Wow. They’re big, fast and good,” Central Arkansas head coach Sandra Rushing said. “There was nothing we could do. Everything we tried to do, they had something for. … I’m proud of our players. Baylor’s just great all the way around.”
Chou’s first dagger came a little more than halfway through the second quarter. UCA’s Taylor Baudoin had just banked in a triple to cut Baylor’s lead to two. After reversing the ball around the perimeter, Kalani Brown kicked the ball over to Chou at the left corner for three.
And Chou was just getting started. She kept the mojo going for the Lady Bears on Central Arkansas’ next possession as she came up with the steal. Again, after good ball movement and off the ball cuts, it was Brown who found Chou, this time set up at the right corner, for the 3-pointer.
“Yeah, I’m pretty sure Kalani assisted two of them, and it’s just we’ve been practicing that,” Chou said. “She just found me and I felt good on my shots, and I just shot it and it went in.”
Chou dialed up a key 3-ball again late in the third quarter. The Lady Bears led by 19, but hadn’t made a field goal in over three and a half minutes. The only points Baylor had during that stretch were a pair of free throws by Chou. The Sugar Bears were on a 9-2 run before Chou knocked down a triple from the left side.
While Chou made the Sugar Bears pay from the perimeter, Lauren Cox and Kalani Brown kept up their solid play inside. Cox finished the game with a team-high 21 points, 10 rebounds and four assist for her first double-double of the season. Brown was right behind her with 19 points, 11 rebounds and seven dimes. It was her third double-double this year. The two combined for just a single turnover.
“Well, I thought Kalani and Cox both passed the ball to each other well tonight, but I thought that they didn’t have turnovers that they had been having in practice, and turnovers in some of these first few games,” Mulkey said. “They’ve always been good passers.”
Three more Lady Bears scored in double figures — Chou and Kristy Wallace with 11 along with Dekeiya Cohen with 10.
For the second consecutive game, every Lady Bear scored.
“I thought the returning players, that includes Juicy Landrum as well, were solid for us tonight.,” Mulkey said. “I tried to do some substituting when we got a lead, and (we) just couldn’t get back in the flow to extend or maintain the lead. I had to use the returning players again, which is expected. That’s not unexpected. But, we can’t just play five all year. Well, I guess we can, but I certainly don’t want to.”
Central Arkansas kept the game close early on. The Sugar Bears finished shooting 33.3 percent from the 3-point line as Kamry Orr led UCA with 23 points, followed by Taylor Baudoin with 13 and Kierra Jordan with 11.
“I told the team at shootaround, they’re going to come in around and they’re going to stall and they’re not going to shoot it until under 10 on the shot clock,” Mulkey said. “I’d do the same thing, because it shortens the game and it takes possessions away from us, and that’s exactly what they did. And they just ducked their head, and tried to shoot a 3, penetrate and kick it out. That’s obviously what they did for four quarters, and that’s respect for our basketball team, and I think we hung in there as best we could. And we move on.”
Now, Baylor focuses its attention on its upcoming road trip to No. 8 UCLA. Tip-off has been scheduled for 3 p.m. On the PAC-12 Network.
“Let’s make it perfectly clear,” Mulkey said. “It’s about winning. Isn’t that what coaches say? It’s about winning. We won. We’ve got to move on, quickly. We have a very good UCLA team in front of us on the road. I’m sure they’ve been waiting on us since last year.”