By Wendell Barnhouse
DALLAS – About 30 minutes before Baylor faced Kansas State in a quarterfinal game in the Phillips 66 Big 12 Women's Championship, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby officially presented Baylor's Nina Davis with her Player Of The Year trophy.
The sophomore then played like a player of the year.
With Davis scoring 30, the top-seeded Lady Bears put away No. 8 seed Kansas State, 82-70, Saturday at the American Airlines Center. Baylor (28-3) will face No. 4 seed Oklahoma State in Sunday's semifinal. The Cowgirls (20-10) advanced to the semifinals for the third consecutive season by defeating No. 5 seed Iowa State, 67-58, in Saturday's first quarterfinal game.
Davis made 10-of-13 field goals and was 10-of-15 at the free throw line. Baylor attacked the Wildcats' zone defense and went to the line 32 times while holding K-State (18-13) to just 19 attempts. The Lady Bears also had 15 steals with Davis and Niya Johnson each getting six.
"Davis was - she was a problem all day long," Kansas State coach Jeff Mittie said. "We just could not rotate to her in the zone, we couldn't keep her off the free throw line. She's just a very, very talented player and they do an excellent job of finding her and she does an excellent job of finding the gaps in the zone.
"I appreciate her more every time I see her."
The Wildcats kept it close for the first seven minutes and trailed just 13-10 after two Breanna Lewis free throws. But Baylor went on a 22-6 run over the next seven minutes to take a 35-16 lead. Freshman reserve guard Kristy Wallace, who finished with 13, made three 3-pointers during the spurt.
Baylor's lead ballooned to 55-31 at the 14:39 mark of the second half. However, with Haley Texada leading the way, the Wildcats made a steady and spirited comeback. Texada, the only K-State player in double figures, scored 25. And with 2:53 remaining, Baylor's lead was down to 73-67.
"Well, the main goal is just to keep playing hard," Texada said. "I mean, when you're down by 20, I know for a lot of teams it's easy to just kind of fade out the game, but you've just got to keep playing hard and I think that's what we did and that's why we were able to come back in and close that gap."
The Wildcats could manage just one more field goal, which was not nearly enough to spring the upset.
"You know at this time of the season everybody is going to give you their best shot and no team is going to go away," Davis said. "At the end so we just have to learn how to play two halves, and we can't just play one half and not the other."
Lady Bears coach Kim Mulkey was a bit chagrined at post-game questions regarding about K-State trimming a 24-point lead to single digits. She pointed out that her top seven players are four sophomores, a freshman, a junior and a senior.
"That's the problem," she said. "They've never - other than those that got to play last year - been on the court when people are in a desperate situation. K-State understood this could be their last game. (We) broke down on the defensive end of the floor.
"It's good that they respond, they don't panic. Let's write about what they're doing (well). They are 28-3 and played a desperate team and they're moving on -survive and advance."
Baylor is seeking a fifth consecutive Big 12 Championship to go along with five consecutive regular-season titles. The Lady Bears have won 13 consecutive games in the Big 12 Championship and since 2011 their record against Big 12 teams is 95-5.
"I am absolutely shocked at what they have done this year, and there's more to do," Mulkey said.