By Wendell Barnhouse
FORT WORTH, Texas – The lights literally went out with 3:41 to play; it seems there was a power/switch issue at the TCU Recreation Center.
No. 3 Baylor figuratively turned the lights out on the Horned Frogs about seven minutes into the second half.
The Lady Bears’ winning streak turned 18 Tuesday night with an efficient and dominant 89-67 victory over TCU Tuesday night. Baylor improved to 19-1 overall and 8-0 in the Big 12 thanks to taking control 10 minutes into the game.
“We knew the style TCU has been playing and how we’d have to match up with ‘em,” Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said. “But we thought we could expose them inside.”
The Horned Frogs (12-7, 4-4) engaged in a chess match, going with a five-guard lineup with no player taller than 5-11. Offensively the plan was to use quickness against the Lady Bears’ size while using pressure defense to create controlled chaos.
For that plan to work, TCU needed to limit Baylor’s second shots and force the Lady Bears to work for their points.
Instead the final numbers in the box score illustrate how the Lady Bears shredded the strategy. Baylor attempted 29 more shots against a team that Mulkey said reminded her of Loyola Marymount, the frenetic fast-breaking men’s team in the early 1990s. Baylor had a 50-29 rebounding edge thanks to 21 offensive boards while outscoring the Frogs 60-24 in the paint.
Post players Nina Davis and Khadijiah Cave combined for 45 points and made 22 of 35 shots. Sune Agbuke, a 6-4 senior who was forced to cover a guard, made 4-of-6 shots, scored 12 points with four assists and two steals in 19 minutes.
“They’re really quick and I just relied on my guards to help me if my man got past me,” Agbuke said.
"They're trying to outscore you,” Mulkey said of TCU. "I thought all along watching film that we'll run with you, we like to run. And we'll score with you. I thought the best defensive team was gonna win and I felt like we took some of their energy away in the second half.”
Baylor, which leads the Big 12 and is fifth nationally in scoring offense, had a 46-34 halftime lead against a team that had rallied for a deficit twice that size to defeat Iowa State. Mulkey said that fact served as a reminder before and during the game.
Cave, who scored a career-high 21 points and had nine rebounds, was an “x” factor that the Frogs were unable to negate. She scored 10 points during a 14-4 run early in the second half to push the Lady Bears’ lead to 63-44 and the advantage eventually swelled to 29 points with 6:21 remaining.
“Our transition game really started working and we tried to work it inside as much as we could because of the height advantage,” said Cave, who did her scoring in 24 minutes.
Davis made her first seven shots but had to sit out the final eight minutes of the first half after getting her second foul. TCU, which never led, couldn’t take advantage as five different Baylor plays scored while Davis was on the bench and an 11-4 run to end the half gave the visitors a double-digit edge.
"Nina is an excellent player, but they've also got a lot of other players that make them work, and they aren't solely dependent on her," first-year TCU coach Raegan Pebley said. "When they make a substitution, it's more of handing off a baton in a 4-by-1 relay. There's not a big dip that happens."
TCU’s leading scorer Zahna Medley finished with six points, making just one of 11 shots and missing all four 3-point attempts.
“The job we did on Medley was important,” Mulkey said. “She can shoot the three and do it effectively. … Our defense collapsed to the ball when they tried to drive. It’s a good win.”