Buy Championship Gear
By Wendell Barnhouse
DALLAS - Hoisting trophies, donning championship hats and t-shirts, being showered by confetti and cutting nets. Just all in a season’s work for Baylor.
The Lady Bears have gone five by five since the 2010-11 season, winning five Big 12 Conference regular-season titles and five Phillips 66 Big 12 Women’s Championships. That’s a lot of confetti and net snipping.
“I don't take it for granted either,” junior point guard Niya Johnson said. “We won like, what, five in a row, and we just want to keep it going.”
Baylor (30-3) turned back No. 6 seed Texas, which made it interesting for the final 10 minutes of the first half, for a 75-54 victory Monday night at the American Airlines Center. The Lady Bears have won seven Big 12 Championships with the average margin of victory 10 points.
To some observers, the Baylor celebration was somewhat subdued. Hey, it’s the same ol’, same ol’, right?
“We're excited,” said Nina Davis, who added a second most outstanding player award to her player of the year bling. “Yes, this is the fifth year in a row but we don't have five rings. This is only like our second one of the season, so this is definitely an exciting time. We're never overlooking winning the championship.”
Playing Baylor can be like standing on a beach and holding back the ocean.
Davis made six of her first seven shots but made just one of her last seven. No matter. Guards Imani Wright (14 points) and Alexis Prince (13 points) combined to make 11-of-19 shots and were 4-of-7 on threes. Agbuke helped counter UT’s two post players with 10 points and eight rebounds.
“I thought Sune played like a senior,” Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said. “When she’s on the floor we’re so much better.”
Playing Baylor also can be defeat by boa constrictor. The Lady Bears squeeze the life out of opponents in a relentless fashion.
Baylor jumped to a 20-8 lead, making 9-of-12 shots, to establish its presence with authority. While Texas made a spirited rally to pull within 35-33 near the end of the first half, the Lady Bears squashed that spirt with another scoring blitz to start the second half. Baylor made eight of its first 12 shots and a 15-4 run pushed the lead to 57-42.
“We needed to answer them, they got on a run and we couldn’t answer them on the offensive end,” Texas’ Celina Rodrigo said. “They were shooting it really well. We were constantly taking the ball out of the net.”
Baylor’s fast starts in each half helped counter slow finishes. The Lady Bears were eight of their last 21 in the first half and six of their last 18 to finish the game.
“I thought we were slow reacting on some of their shots in the first half,” Texas coach Karen Aston said. “In the second half we contested them better but they made some really tough jumpers.”
Texas reduced its deficit from 12 to two after Agbuke went to the bench with two fouls with 12:51 remaining. Agbuke avoided foul trouble in the second half which was crucial in countering UT’s two post players – 6-5 Kelsey Lang (eight points, five rebounds) and 6-7 Imani McGee Stafford (15 points, 10 rebounds).
“This game was frustrating because we wanted a championship,” McGee-Stafford said. “I haven’t beaten Baylor yet. At the end of the day, they put more points up. We couldn’t stop them on the defensive end.”
Baylor led for all but 53 seconds against Texas and led for all but 4:59 in its other two victories here. Over the last five seasons, the Lady Bears are 98-5 against Big 12 competition. This year’s team, picked to finish second behind Texas, plays one senior, one junior, four sophomores and a freshman in its top seven rotation.
Mulkey was asked what it means to win five consecutive Big 12 Championships.
“It means we're pretty good,” she said. “It means that our name goes in a book. I don't know that anybody's ever done that (win five in a row in the Big 12).”
Told that Baylor athletic director Ian McCaw used the word “dynasty” to describe her program, Mulkey was down with that.
“There you go, well, he signs my paycheck, so get his quote,” Mulkey said. “My (athletic director) says we're a dynasty.”
Nina Davis, Baylor (Most Outstanding Player)
Niya Johnson, Baylor
Alexis Prince, Baylor
Imani McGee-Stafford, Texas
Roshunda Johnson, Oklahoma State