What fun it must be to play alongside Kristy Wallace and Dekeiya Cohen.
As Lamar knocked down its first two 3-pointers and caused some problems with its half-court offense and its full-court, trapping defense, Baylor’s co-captains took their team on a wild ride. Cohen and Wallace fueled an explosive run for the No. 3 Lady Bears en route to a 121-62 season opening win Friday night inside the Ferrell Center.
“I thought that Kristy got some big buckets for us,” Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey said. “She shot the ball extremely well. She did what you hope seniors would do. I thought Dekeiya, when she was in there, was aggressive. I thought she got a couple of offensive boards. She’s a very good offensive rebounder. I told her, I said, ‘You can’t get in foul trouble. You and (Lauren) Cox were in foul trouble.’ We’re not deep enough for that to happen. For two seniors, I thought that they were ready to play.”
Down by four points just over two minutes into the game, Wallace nailed a triple from the corner to give a Baylor offensive that hadn’t put up a shot in nearly a minute, a spark. And then as Wallace and freshman Alexis Morris broke the first level of Lamar’s press, Cohen was waiting to finish things up with a bucket. Cohen’s first score of the night ignited a 24-2 run that was fueled by post play and taking care of business in transition.
A good chunk of those points came from the free-throw line as Baylor finished 12 of 13 from the line in the first quarter alone.
As per usual with a Kim Mulkey coached Baylor team, the play on the defensive end also had plenty to do with the Lady Bears’ offensive surge. When Baylor ran its own full court press, with Lauren Cox defending the inbounder, her length forced back-to-back turnovers which resulted in a four-point swing for Baylor. And when freshman Didi Richards entered the game, the Lady Bears’ defensive intensity went to a whole other level. After the first two exhibition contests, this should come as no surprise, as Mulkey has discussed Richards’ defensive ability multiple times so far this year.
Each Lady Bear played a part as Baylor is now 18-0 in season openers under Mulkey. With 10 players on the roster, that must happen in order for the Lady Bears to be successful. That’s where their “Rise as One” motto came from. Every player must produce.
Produce might be an understatement for Kalani Brown’s performance. The returning All-American, and the Big 12 Preseason Player of the Year had a double-double by halftime. The junior went to work in the paint, the recipient of multiple drives and dishes by the Baylor guards and the cleaner upper of missed Baylor shots for second chance points.
Brown finished with 26 points and 21 rebounds on the night to lead all scorers. It marked the first 20-rebound game since Brittney Griner against Florida State on March 26, 2013.
“It was actually one of my goals to try and average a double-double this year,” Brown said. “I know I was close last year, with 15 and eight. I was trying to get over the hump. I guess i went over a little bit. Having dominance is what coach wants me to do. I’m going to keep doing it.”
Brown had the opportunity to get to 30 points. Mulkey said she has someone at the scorer’s table who lets her know if there’s a certain milestone within reach for one of her players, so she knew to run a play for Brown.
“Bless her heart, Moon (Ursin) went running down in there the first time and took her man right into the lob,” Mulkey said. “Then the second time, Kalani’s at the rim and kicked it out to Natalie. Then she got the three seconds called. I gave her more than one opportunity to do it, but I’m not going to keep her in there much longer. I always get a little nervous, scared that she’ll get hurt or something. She had an opportunity to do that.”
Natalie Chou added 20 points which marked a career high. The sophomore’s nine rebounds and six assists were also career bests. Four other Lady Bears recorded double digit points — Cohen with 16, Wallace with 15, Cox with 14 and Morris with 12. Baylor’s 121 points were the fifth most single-game scoring output in program history.
Overall, Baylor finished shooting 62.9 percent from the floor as 32 of its 44 (72.7) shots were assisted. Wallace and Chou each dished out six dimes.
“I think our offense is better moving the ball around, kicking it,” Wallace said. “I thought it was good. I thought we started pretty stagnant and we just had to get going and eventually, once we had a few transition points, we were able to kick the ball ahead and get the ball moving.”
Now, the Lady Bears turn their attention to Coppin State who they will face at 2 p.m. Sunday inside the Ferrell Center before hosting Central Arkansas at 7 p.m. Tuesday.