By Wendell Barnhouse | email@example.com
OKLAHOMA CITY – Three minutes into the game, Baylor’s intentions became obvious.
Following a Kansas turnover that produced a fast break layup for Nina Davis, coach Kim Mulkey exhorted point guard Niya Johnson: “Push it, push it.”
They pushed it real good. Top-seeded Baylor left no doubt against the Jayhawks, one of two teams with a Big 12 victory over Baylor this season. The Lady Bears limited KU to single digits for the first 12 minutes and breezed to an 81-47 victory Saturday in the Phillips 66 Big 12 Women’s Basketball Championship.
Baylor (27-4) advances to Sunday’s semifinals and will face No. 4 seed Oklahoma State, a 67-57 winner over No. 5 seed Iowa State.
Mulkey also called up a full-court press that forced 20 turnovers as Baylor had a 26-6 edge in points off turnovers. While Kansas had advanced by winning an overtime game Friday night while her team relaxed, Mulkey said the fast break and press had nothing to do with exhausting a tired opponent.
“Everybody is tired late in the year,” she said. “It had more to do with generate your own energy and enthusiasm here. Let's don't come out here and not have some energy and excitement, so that was the reason I called that, and it got us going. “
Davis converted two free throws to give Baylor a 31-6 lead with 9:11 remaining in the first half. At that point, the Lady Bears had scored on 15 of 20 possessions.
“Defensively (it) didn't matter what we were in,” Kansas coach Bonnie Henrickson said. “They just looked at us and said we're going to rip it and drive on you and offensive rebound and get you in transition. Give them a tremendous amount of credit. They came out and ran a buzz saw and we didn't have an answer defensively.”
Davis, the Big 12 freshman of the year, a unanimous selection to the All-Big 12 freshman team and a first-team All-Big 12 pick, followed up her 26-point effort at Iowa State with a team-high 20 points. Davis is averaging 21.5 points over her last four games.
“I expect that every night from Nina, and if she would have played more, she would have had another double‑double. … We can’t win without her,” Mulkey said.
Kansas lost by 20 points in Waco on Jan. 5 and two weeks later accomplished a 36-point swing by defeating Baylor, 76-60, in Lawrence. Any confidence gained from that outcome quickly disappeared in Baylor’s blitz.
“I guess we knew we had to come out with more intensity,” Baylor’s Imani Wright said. “We still remember the loss that we took, so we felt like we needed to start fast and keep it going.”
Baylor was relentless, holding Kansas to 33.9 percent shooting and posting a 48-31 rebounding edge. When Kansas junior Chelsea Gardner fouled out with 6:46 remaining, she had 21 of her team’s 37 points.
Odyssey Sims, the nation’s leading scorer, finished with 15 and played just 25 minutes. In her last two games, she’s scored a total of 26 points; she came into the Kansas game averaging 29.6 per game.
“It's so valuable, but it wasn't just resting them,” Mulkey said about giving her starters some time off. “It's what the other players did while the starters were resting. They didn't lose a lead. They didn't do bad things on the floor.
“I saw a very mature team out there with that many young players extend the lead and get steals and deflections and defend, and that's when you're really, really pleased.”