As the “BU!” chants echoed throughout the Ferrell Center Thursday night, the third-ranked Lady Bears put on a show. Though it was Baylor’s first top-10 matchup of the season, the result was similar to what’s happened night in and night out all year long. Behind a dominant defensive performance and balanced offensive attack, the Lady Bears blew out yet another opponent, No. 6 Texas. The front court duo of Kalani Brown and Lauren Cox continued their dominance but it was Kristy Wallace that set the tone early in Baylor’s 81-56 victory over the Longhorns.
“It’s Australia Day today,” Baylor head coach said of Wallace’s performance on both ends of the court. After Wallace said that Australia Day is the 26th, Mulkey was quick to respond, “Whatever time zone it is, it’s Australia Day. So, the Aussie did good.”
Wallace came out ready to play from the tip. The senior guard had two quick transition layups as the Texas defenders watched her blaze by with no way of stopping her. Wallace finished with a career-high 27 points off 11-of-16 shooting from the floor to go along with seven rebounds, four assists and two steals.
“Kristy can score,” Mulkey said. “She just has been a great distributor for our team this year. She’s got 6-foot-7 and 6-foot-4 inside, they’re having a great year. She doesn’t have to score. Tonight, she just had some openings and she felt it, and I ran a couple quick-hitters for her off the dribble. And she did what Kristy is capable of doing night-in and night-out. She just doesn’t have to do it all the time.”
With Baylor holding on to a three-point lead with 2:14 to play in the first quarter, Wallace drained a 3-pointer to put the Lady Bears up by six. And the Longhorns trailed by more than one possession the rest of the game.
Before Wallace’s triple, there were five ties but no lead changes as Baylor led throughout.
“I thought Baylor came out with the kind of energy that I really expected,” Texas head coach Karen Aston said. “I expected them to try to punch us and that’s exactly what they did. A little surprised, a lot surprised, by our team’s lack of composure and competitiveness in the first quarter. ... It was just a little bit of an old-fashioned butt-kicking to be honest with you.”
Baylor started 6-for-6 on the offensive end of the floor behind Wallace, Cox and Brown. The Lady Bear front court tandem each finished with 17 points and a double double as Cox had 10 boards and Brown had 11.
“I just go out there and play,” Brown said. “I love a good rivalry, too. Texas is a very good team. They’re always bringing that high intensity. I love that. We have to match that.”
Along with matching the Longhorns’ energy, Mulkey mentioned Tuesday afternoon that the Lady Bears had to keep Texas out of transition and off the offensive glass. Texas finished with two fast break points and five second chance points off 14 offensive rebounds.
“Transition defense, we gave up some but not like we did here last year and like a lot of teams do against Texas,” Mulkey said. “They get a lot of transition, run-out baskets. We tried really hard to emphasize that in practice and we emphasized keeping them off the offensive boards. Now, they got a bunch there late, the last two or three minutes of the game. But I thought for the most part, we didn’t let them kill us in those two areas.”
Focusing on the defensive end of the floor, Baylor continued to do what Baylor does. The Lady Bears held the Longhorns to 31.3 percent shooting from the floor and 20 percent from the 3-point line. Brooke McCarty led Texas with 16 points, followed by Lashann Higgs with 13 and Ariel Atkins with 11.
“I thought (their defense) was pretty good,” Aston said. “I thought they were very in-tune with each other, really in good position all night long. They were in the gaps really well and they definitely slowed down our penetration. When that didn’t happen, we weren’t patient enough to move the next options of the offense.”
On the boards, Texas entered Thursday night’s contest outrebounding 17 of their last 18 opponent’s. But Baylor dominated the glass to the tune of 50 rebounds to 34. The Lady Bears pulled down 16 offensive rebounds and finished with 22 second-chance points. Baylor won by 25.
“They listened to the scouting report,” Mulkey said. “Our rebounding has to be better than their rebounding and it has to be productive. Kalani and Cox get a lot of credit but I’m just telling you, they’re not all we have. We have some players that can play.”
Freshmen Alexis Morris and Didi Richards proved that against the Longhorns. They each finished with eight points as Morris added a pair of steals and Richards hustled for six offensive rebounds.
“They’ve got a little swag about them like a lot of freshmen want to have but they have it because they can back it up,” Mulkey said. “Were they not warriors tonight? ... Didi, she’s just got a little in her neck. She’ll go out there if you want her to play the post, she’ll play with the best of them. You want her to go out and guard the three, she’ll do that too. ... Morris is smooth.”
After Baylor’s performance in front of a crowd of 9,286 — the highest attended Lady Bear game since Baylor’s 74-48 win over Texas on Feb. 24, 2016 — Mulkey was asked if she was surprised by the final score.
“I don’t know that I just sit and think what’s the score going to be,” Mulkey said. “What I did know is that (Texas) is very good and very talented. They have 10 McDonald’s All-Americans. How good are we? How good are we, girls? I think we found out tonight we’re pretty good.”