The Lady Bears showed off their speed and efficiency right from the tip. Once Juicy Landrum pulled in the basketball tipped by Lauren Cox, Landrum took it with her left hand all the way to the hoop where she finished with the layup for the and-1.
It was like that time and time again Thursday night as No. 4 Baylor topped St. Francis 116-58 inside the Ferrell Center.
“We want to run every chance we can. We have athletes,” Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey said. “When you get a rebound, I’ll let a post player take it and go if you see the opportunity. I love pushing the ball up the floor. Nobody wants to play if you walk it up the floor the whole night. We had a lot of transition baskets. When our posts get it, if you’ll watch, they’ll turn. (Lauren) Cox turns and throws a pass like old Bill Walton used to do. Y’all know who he is? Just making sure I’m not aging y’all.”
The Lady Bears finished with 42 fast break points in the contest, a slew of which stemmed directly from the defensive end.
Chloe Jackson, for example, finished with four steals on the night. Each of her steals were passes she picked off playing up in the passing lanes.
“I thought Chloe Jackson got a lot of steals just because she was at the right angle,” Mulkey said. “It wasn’t like she just stripped people with the ball in their hands. She was very active and very smart defensively.”
The senior point guard took each of those steals and finished them off with a layup at the other end. Jackson finished the contest shooting 6-for-6 from the floor for 15 points to go with six assists on the night.
She was one of four Lady Bears to put up double figures — Kalani Brown (23), NaLyssa Smith (21) and Queen Egbo (14).
Juicy Landrum led the team with 11 rebounds, a career high. Smith racked up a double-double with 10 rebounds.
“I’m very comfortable,” Smith said. “I feel like I’m adjusting well to this, and just keep going up from here.”
While Baylor shot 65.8 percent on the night — the first time the Lady Bears have surpassed 65 percent since shooting a school record 69.8 percent from the floor against Kansas State on March 4, 2013 — Baylor held St. Francis to 28.2 percent shooting.
Most of the Red Flash’s offense came behind the 3-point line as 57 of their 71 shot attempts came from the perimeter. St. Francis finished with 17 made triples — five from Jess Kovatch for 15 points and four from Courtney Zezza for 14 points.
“When we play teams that spread the floor like that, it’s very obvious to be concerned with Kalani having to go outside, Cox having to go outside (and defend),” Mulkey said. “I think DiDi Richards sets the tone for us because she’s going to be assigned to the opposing team’s best players. I thought DiDi, she just wouldn’t let (Kovatch) get a good look until that one possession where she helped on the drive ball side and she kicked it out and (Kovatch) kind of got some more buckets after that.”
One of the points of focus for the Lady Bears entering the season has been on limiting their fouls. Baylor had 24 fouls in the first exhibition and 25 in the second. After finishing with 17 fouls earlier in the week in the season opener against Nicholls State, the Lady Bears committed only eight fouls against St. Francis.
“We talked about that at halftime,” Mulkey said. “One game, I’ve got five sitting by me in the first half (in foul trouble), another game five, another game three. We had four fouls at halftime, and that’s a positive. Get your hands off, move your feet, and we’re very conscious of that now.”
Another point of focus for Baylor is free throws as the Lady Bears have made around 50 percent of their shots from the line — Langston (50 percent), Texas A&M-Commerce (52.9 percent) and Nicholls State (45 percent). After making its first three free throws of the night, Baylor finished shooting 51.7 percent from the stripe.
“I will tell you, my biggest concern after two games is free throws,” Mulkey said. “You cannot get to the line this many times in the last two games and shoot less than 50 percent. That ought to be embarrassing to each of them. If you’re going to be a team that’s ranked this high and expectations are what they are, step up to the line and make your free throws.”
Up next for the Lady Bears is a trip to Fort Defiance, Ariz. where they will face off against No. 23 Arizona State for the Showdown on the Rez. That game is slated for a 6:30 p.m. tip and will be nationally televised on ESPN2.