LAWRENCE, Kans. - Some things, like the tides, sunrises and sunsets, go on forever (we hope). Streaks are made to end.
And this was the week for streaks to end for Baylor. Monday night the Lady Bears battled defending national champion and top-ranked Connecticut before losing to end their 69-game home court winning streak. Sunday in Allen Fieldhouse, Baylor’s streak of victories over Big 12 foes ended at 53.
In two weeks, Kansas pulled off a 36-point turnaround. After losing in Waco by 20 on Jan. 5, the Jayhawks pulled away in the second half for a dominant 76-60 victory over the Lady Bears.
“We talked about being aggressive and keeping it simple,” Kansas coach Bonnie Henrickson said. “On top of the talent in this league, the resolve you have to have in this conference is such a challenge.”
Baylor, Oklahoma State and West Virginia all have one Big 12 loss. The Cowgirls – who will host the Lady Bears (14-3, 4-1) next Sunday – and the Mountaineers are tied for first with 5-1 records.
Henrickson wasn’t aware of the length of Baylor’s winning streak but she knew that she was facing a team that had not lost to a league foe in some time (Feb. 19, 2011). She was also aware that most thought the Jayhawks would be facing a Baylor team angry and inspired after the loss to UConn. But the Jayhawks were 1-4 and had lost at Texas in its previous game.
"We were kind of ornery, too," Henrickson said. "We were pretty salty about that as well."
Ornery and tough enough to not let an early Baylor blitz determine the outcome. The Lady Bears, who struggled offensively the entire game, went on a 7-0 run to take a 15-4 lead with 13:27 left in the first half. After Henrickson took a timeout, the Jayhawks (9-9, 2-4) answered with an 8-0 run.
While Baylor built another 11-point lead, capped by an Odyssey Sims 3-pointer, to take a 25-14 lead with six minutes to go in the first half, the Jayhawks again responded and trailed 32-31 at halftime.
“We’ve always known if we play hard we can play with anyone,” said KU guard Natalie Knight, who had 18 points. “We’ve struggled lately but this game was good for us.”
Sims came in averaging 31 points and she finished with 31. However, she attempted an ice-your-arm 37 shots – a school record. Sims missed 24 of those; her teammates were 11-of-42 as Baylor shot 30.4 percent and made just 3-of-20 3-point attempts.
“We didn’t give Odyssey much help,” Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said. “She battled. But we just couldn’t score. We didn’t get anything out of our post players and I played all of ‘em.”
Sims had 30 points in Baylor’s victory two weeks ago. In the rematch, Kansas used a diamond-and-one strategy. At least five different players were given the assignment to shadow the Lady Bears’ All-American.
“We played it better and smarter,” Henrickson said of her defensive strategy. “We had to stay with her so close we could tell what she had for breakfast, what kind of gum she was chewing.”
Kansas dominated the last 11 minutes. Chelsea Gardner gave the Jayhawks the lead for good when she made both ends of a one-and-one. Asia Boyd scored five of her nine points on consecutive possessions – nailing a 3-pointer against Baylor’s zone and then scoring underneath on a reverse layup.
Baylor missed 10 of its last 14 shots as it tried to regain control. Kansas refused to yield partially because of Gardner’s dominance in the low post. The 6-3 junior, had 28 points, 13 rebounds and three blocked shots.
"I came in the game knowing that we could beat them," Gardner said. "The beginning of the game we weren't as ready as we should have been. After the first timeout we came ready to fight and play and kept pushing the gas pedal."