OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – Kim Mulkey pumped her fist as she walked out to greet her players heading to the bench.
The Lady Bears had just finished a first quarter where they scored 25 points off 59 percent shooting, while holding Louisville to nine points off only 25 percent shooting.
To top it all off, freshman Natalie Chou drew a foul as she put up a last-second heave from the 3-point line, and Louisville’s coach Jeff Walz was called for a technical.
It was that rocket-fast start that led the way as top-seeded Baylor defeated Louisville, 97-63, Friday night to advance to the Elite Eight for the fourth-straight year.
“I mean, it was a lot of fun,” senior Nina Davis said. “We came out and got off to a quick start, which is something we needed to do, something we've been focusing on. We were getting out running, everybody was getting out on the fast breaks. They were feeding me the ball. We like to push the ball and play up-tempo.”
From the moment Davis made a layup merely 13 seconds into the game, it was the Lady Bears (33-3) all the way.
Baylor didn’t just attack from the post with its trifecta of post players down low.
The Lady Bears were balanced in their victory, with 46 paint points to go along with shooting a 33.3 percent mark from the perimeter.
“Guys were on a roll. Just playing good basketball,” Mulkey said. “As I said before the game, yeah, you should talk about our post players, but you better not forget about those perimeter players. Those kids get overlooked. They're hitting big-time shots.
"They're shooting unbelievable from the three. It's because of the big guys that they're able to get those open looks."
Louisville (29-8) put up a fight in the second quarter, actually outscoring Baylor, 22-18, in the frame behind a 4-for-9 mark from the 3-point line.
“We didn’t make any adjustments,” Louisville coach Jeff Walz said. “We just followed through the game play, executed it correctly and did the right things. We came up with some stops. We had great rotations. Our effort was really good.”
The Lady Bears were without Alexis Jones and Kalani Brown for most of that quarter as they each picked up their second foul and remained on the bench until the third quarter.
Instead of struggling and allowing the Cardinals to get back in the game with those two out, the depth of this Baylor team stepped up, as it’s done all year.
Sophomore Beatrice Mompremier seemed to take over the game midway through the quarter with a trio of layups.
When asked if she expected that kind of performance from herself, Mompremier said, “No. I just expected a tough game, going out there, rebounding, helping my team, doing whatever I could do to help my team.”
Meanwhile, junior Kristy Wallace continued to play her game – making the hustle plays that no one else makes to give her team just one more possession.
Once the third quarter started, Brown started where she left off with a bucket in the paint as Davis continued to be the motor for the Lady Bears.
The senior swiped the ball from Louisville’s Mariya Moore and took it all the way to the other end where she finished with a layup through the foul.
In a blink, Baylor’s 12-point halftime lead was 17.
“Went into halftime feeling good,” Walz said. “I really felt good about things. I'm like, Hey, it's a 12-point game, people. They had it at 18. We cut it down to 12. We got to get a stop, score, stop. It led to a score, turnover, and-one, a 5-0 run.”
Defense continued to lead to offense for the Lady Bears as the third quarter progressed, and Baylor kept building its lead.
The Baylor defense forced 12 turnovers on the night and scored 21 points off those Louisville errors.
“Every time we turned it over, it led to a point,” Walz said. “It's a staggering stat, when you look at it. They have 21 points off our turnovers, and we only turned it over 12 times. Every turnover led to a point, a basket. It's unacceptable.”
Overall, Baylor finished shooting 50 percent from the floor as five Lady Bears finished in double figures.
Davis led the way with 21 points, followed by Mompremier and Alexis Prince each with 14 along with 12 apiece from Brown and Wallace.
While Baylor's offense got good looks, the defense kept Louisville in check as the Cardinals finished shooting at only a 30 percent clip Friday night.
Asia Durr led Louisville with 21 points, followed by Myisha Hines-Allen with 12 and Moore with 10.
Baylor has won its first three NCAA tournament games by a record average of 54.3 points.
Next up, the Lady Bears take on No. 2 seed Mississippi State at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday.