OKLAHOMA CITY – After Kalani Brown missed a short attempt in the lane in the third quarter, Baylor coach Kim Mulkey loudly called out, “Finish!”
Brown – and the rest of the Lady Bears – heeded that advice.
Finishing with a furious fourth-quarter flourish, top-seeded Baylor dispatched eighth-seeded Texas Tech, 95-63, in the Big 12 tournament quarterfinals on Saturday afternoon at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
The Lady Raiders (14-17) shot the 3-ball with no conscience, and late in the second quarter they started ripping the nets with those shots to cut a 15-point lead down to six. For a while, even into the third quarter, it seemed like the Lady Raiders couldn’t miss.
“ I’m not going to lie, I was a little bit (nervous),” Brown, Baylor’s sophomore post, said. “I was like, ‘Well, dang.’ (Recee Caldwell) came down three times. I was like, ‘OK, y’all.’ But I kept my composure. I was like, ‘What can we do, let’s make an adjustment.’ … We stuck with it.”
Indeed, Baylor (29-2) didn’t wilt under the onslaught. Ripping down rebounds at a relentless rate, the Lady Bears used their considerable size advantage to push the edge back to double digits and then some. Baylor ran away with the game by the end, outscoring Tech, 24-10, in the fourth quarter.
All five Baylor starters reached double figures in scoring, and three produced double-doubles – Nina Davis (18 points, 14 rebounds), Kristy Wallace (12 points, 10 rebounds) and Brown (14 points, 10 boards). Wallace, in fact, flirted with a triple-double, as she distributed seven assists as well while playing 37 minutes in the absence of the injured Alexis Jones.
“It’s always fun when everyone scores,” Brown said. “Getting our young ones in, getting a learning experience, getting on the big stage. Because the Big 12 tournament is somewhat like the NCAA tournament. You get that vibe early, so they’re not as shook when their name is called. It’s good.”
Brown planted herself deep on the block, just feet away from the basket, on Baylor’s first few possessions. She easily scored the first six points of the game before Tech adjusted and collapsed its zone defense with an extra defender to limit Brown’s touches.
However, shooters like Alexis Prince, who had a game-high 22 points on 10-of-15 from the floor, and Dekeiya Cohen (17 points) knocked down their open looks to make the Lady Raiders pay for that strategy.
“It’s important (that we hit those shots) so Kalani can get touches in there and open the paint a little bit,” Prince said. “They were starting to clog it, so it was hard to et here the ball. So it was important to start out hot.”
Baylor led 25-12 after Prince buried a 3-pointer off a set play to end the first quarter. But the Lady Raiders weren’t dead yet.
Texas Tech went full guns-up to get back into the game. Baylor pushed its lead to 16 points following Davis’ astute chase-down and follow-up of her own missed jump shot. Then the Lady Raiders caught fire from deep to whittle into the gap.
Tech connected on five 3-point bombs in the final three minutes of the first half, including four from sophomore guard Recee Caldwell and another, wild 30-foot bucket off the window from Larryn Brooks with plenty of time on the shot clock.
“You must shoot the ball extremely well to beat Baylor unless you have the size inside to battle with them,” Texas Tech coach Candi Whitaker said. “You’re going to have to shoot it from the arc and make 15-plus threes to stay in the game. It’s just what it is when you play Baylor.”
Tech trailed 45-36 at the half and narrowed the deficit to six points after freshman Arella Guirantes dropped in a corner trey off a kickout feed early in the third quarter. But this wasn’t Louisville, circa 2013. Baylor refused to allow the Lady Raiders to get any closer.
Passing the ball crisply, Baylor closed the third quarter on a 13-4 run. Freshman Natalie Chou contributed a couple of buckets in that surge, including a 3-pointer, and she whipped a pass into an open Brown for a layup.
Baylor killed it on the caroms, collecting nearly as many offensive rebounds (21) as Tech had total boards (23). The Lady Bears finished with 51 total rebounds.
“We have a lot of balance and we have people that step up different nights,” Davis said. “Scoring off rebounds is something we’ve always been good at.”
Even the guards were getting in on the glass-wiping fun for Baylor. With 10 boards, Wallace finished just two rebounds shy ofsetting a new career high.
Asked if she felt like one of the posts, Wallace said, “Yeah, man. I was pumped for that. Kind of surprising, but cool.”
Caldwell topped Texas Tech with 21 points, hitting five 3-point bombs. Guirantes added 15 points, including a trio of treys, while Brooks chipped in 12. The Lady Raiders’ season is likely over, as they don’t figure to earn a WNIT invitation with a losing overall record.
Baylor moves on to the Big 12 tourney semifinals to face fourth-seeded Kansas State (22-9) at 1:30 p.m. Sunday. The Wildcats rode 25 points from reserve Kayla Goth to a 74-67 win over fifth-seeded Iowa State in the game just prior to the Baylor-Tech contest.