It’s no secret the Baylor Lady Bears dominate the paint. If that’s a surprise to anyone at this point in the season, they clearly haven’t been paying attention.
Kim Mulkey doesn’t rotate 6-foot-7 Kalani Brown and 6-foot-4 Lauren Cox in and out of the center position. No, the 18-year head coach of the Lady Bears plays them on the floor. Together. And the duo has been unstoppable.
“One of them is difficult, but two of them together is double trouble,” Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer said in early December.
The pair has combined for 40 percent of Baylor’s offensive while averaging better than 15 points per contest. All this comes off 34.8 percent of the team’s total shot attempts. Brown and Cox are efficient, to say the least, as Brown leads the country in field goal percentage (73.6) while Cox is hitting at a 52.7 percent rate.
“If there are two better in the country, I need to see them playing together,” Mulkey said. “They pass to each other well, they know what each other are going to do every time down the floor, they communicate well, they get along, and they have great size. That’s hard to duplicate.”
Post touches are vital to success as Mulkey has mentioned time and again this season. But what has been the perfect complement to this inside dominance for the Lady Bears might raise some eyebrows of the casual observer. However, just because this aspect of the game isn’t utilized often doesn’t mean Baylor isn’t good at it.
The Lady Bears can shoot it from 3.
Currently, Baylor is tied for 212th in the country in 3-point makes with 70. However, the Lady Bears are second in the nation in 3-point percentage at 41.9 percent. (Oregon State is first with a 42.7 percentage.)
Baylor’s 3-point percentage is the best in program history. The 2004-05 national championship team currently holds the No. 1 spot with a 40.8 percentage from deep. Last year’s squad isn’t far behind at 40.3. The 2015-16 team is currently sixth in program history at 37.2 percent.
“We don’t have to shoot as many perimeter shots when you’re 6-7 and 6-4 inside,” Mulkey said. “And yet at the same time, we can. But, I think that’s always been the case at Baylor. I think people misunderstand and say make them shoot it outside.
“Well, we can shoot it outside. Logic tells you a layup is a heck of a lot better than a 30-footer. And when you’ve got that kind of size inside, you’ve got to make them guard you.”
Not many teams have the same kind of size Baylor does inside. With that size mismatch, double, or triple teams even, are used. But the question with this Lady Bear team is, who do opposing defenses help off of?
Not Kristy Wallace — as the senior’s 44.7 percent mark from deep is fourth in the Big 12.
Probably not Alexis Morris either. The freshman is hitting better than 50 percent from deep as her confidence rises with the more experience she gains.
Not Natalie Chou either. The sophomore is deadly from deep.
Definitely not Juicy Landrum. If the NCAA didn’t have a minimum of two 3-point makes per game, the sophomore would lead the country. She already leads the Big 12 at a 52.9 percent clip from long range.
“Juicy has the most range of anybody on our team,” Mulkey said. “She can shoot it crossing half court.”
Senior Dekeiya Cohen doesn’t shoot the 3, but her midrange jumper is legit. She’s shooting 50 percent from the floor for 9.6 points per game. Freshman Didi Richards also has a good midrange game with a 45.7 field goal percentage.
From the paint to the perimeter, this Lady Bear offense is rolling. Baylor leads the nation in scoring offense (92 points per game) and scoring margin (+37) while the Lady Bears are second in the country in field goal percentage at 52.8. (UConn is first with 53.4).
Every piece of the offense fits together in the perfect puzzle. The high-low game for the Lady Bears has been productive, especially when Cox catches the ball toward the top of the key and dumps it down to Brown. Post entries from the guards down to either Cox or Brown – who already have good position before the catch with at least one foot inside the lane – have led to 674 total points for Baylor inside the paint.
So far, the Lady Bears have scored 674 of their 1,196 points in the paint. That not only comes from the posts but what happens by the off the ball movement by the rest of the Baylor players. This has been seen all season but most recently against Texas Tech.
Either the defender gets caught watching the ball instead of her man, or a defender goes away to help defend a Baylor big, and the open Lady Bear cuts to the basket. Brown and Cox are such good passers, with 28 and 41 respectively, that the play away from the ball leads to a bucket.
While that happens mostly against man defenses, the totality of the Lady Bear offense tore up the zone defense that Kansas State played in the Big 12 opener on Thursday. And it happened from the start. When a zone defense is played, the defender defends an area of the court instead of her man. As Baylor reversed the ball around the perimeter, that made the zone defense have to move quite a bit. For instance, when the defense collapsed in when Cox caught the ball, she immediately kicked it out to an open Natalie Chou on the perimeter, and Chou sunk it.
“I just thought (Natalie) set the tone for our bigs,” Mulkey said after the game. “It’s no secret that we are big inside, I think we have two of the finest post players in the country but that’s not all we have. Natalie, a sophomore now, she’s getting her opportunity.
“We are only nine on a team, so everybody has an opportunity to get minutes and contribute. I really thought every one of them did positive things tonight. I never put a lineup on the floor that I felt uncomfortable with.”