By Wendell Barnhouse | firstname.lastname@example.org
OKLAHOMA CITY – Baylor coach Kim Mulkey posted a significant victory Sunday. Only she thought it was important for different reasons than others did.
Awaiting a post-game television interview, Mulkey noticed that freshman Nina Davis was wearing a white t-shirt with a large “400” in green numerals.
The Lady Bears’ hard-fought 65-61 victory over No. 4 seed Oklahoma State was the 400th of Mulkey’s career. Baylor (28-4) will play in Monday’s title game of the Phillips 66 Big 12 Women’s Basketball Championship against No. 2 seed West Virginia, a 67-60 winner over No. 3 seed Texas in the other semifinal game.
Career milestones get lost in the whirlwind of tournament play and March Madness.
“Actually, you know, you get caught in the moment,” Mulkey said. “I got a text from a fan that said something about now, go conquer 400. I had to ask my assistant “What are we conquering?’ You don't think about that. You're thinking how can I win this conference tournament and then you're thinking how far can I go in the NCAA Tournament.”
It was the fourth meeting in the Big 12 Championship between Baylor and Oklahoma State (23-8). The Lady Bears have won all four but single-digit margins of six, five, eight and four points. The semifinal victory came courtesy of supporting players and not Odyssey Sims.
The nation’s leading scorer finished with 17 but it was sophomore Niya Johnson and senior Makenzie Robertson who made the key plays to maintain Baylor’s lead over the final minutes.
Johnson attempted a season-high 12 field goals; just the third time in 32 games she has been in double figures in shot attempts. Her five field goals equaled a season high. In the final four minutes, she made jump shots to pad the Lady Bears’ advantage.
“Well, when I first stubbed out, coach came up to me and told me to keep shooting the ball, shooting the ball with confidence, and I just took her words to heart and I just kept shooting,” Johnson said.
Robertson finished with 13 points and eight rebounds. The Cowgirls pulled to within 52-50 with just over eight minutes to play but Robertson answered with a 3-pointer. She followed up a Johnson miss by scoring with an offensive rebound to give Baylor a 61-54 remaining with 4:29 remaining.
Oklahoma State played a triangle-and-two defense with the idea of shutting down Sims and freshman Nina Davis.
“If somebody would have told me we held (Sims) to 17, I would have taken that,” Oklahoma State coach Jim Littell said. “But the second part of the triangle‑and‑two was we were not to lose Robertson, and we lost her about three or four times, and she hit shots. That's probably the single most thing that we needed to do that we didn't do.”
Davis led Baylor with 20 points and 12 rebounds. The Big 12 Freshman of the Year, Davis has averaged 20.8 points and 11 rebounds over the last five games.
"She's one of those players that, when the game is over, you don't realize she had another double-double," Mulkey said. "She just does her job in there."
Oklahoma State made just 8-of-30 shots (26.7 percent) in the first half and trailed by nine at halftime. The Cowgirls made their first four shots to start the second half but spent the second half pushing a big rock up a steep hill.
The first half shooting was just one factor that kept Oklahoma State from reaching the championship game. To pull an upset and beat a team like Baylor, almost everything has to be checked off the the “to do” check list. The Cowgirls left Chesapeake Energy Arena and headed home to Stillwater knowing they didn’t get enough done.
“There are a lot of different things you can point to,” Littell said. “I'm really disappointed; I thought we had a chance to win the ballgame. “