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GOOD REST FOR WEARY: #9 Lady Bears Blow Out Kansas, 81-47, at Big 12

March 9, 2014

By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Insider

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. - Not even the dream could have been this good.

Baylor took a 25-point lead in the first 11 minutes and got plenty of rest for weary starters as the ninth-ranked Lady Bears coasted to an 81-47 blowout victory on Saturday over a Kansas team that handed them their worst loss of the season.

Playing the majority of the second-half minutes, Baylor's reserves didn't just keep the lead, they extended it, outscoring the Kansas bench, 29-11.

"You couldn't have drawn it up any better," said Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey, whose team improved to 27-4 in advancing to Sunday's 2 p.m. Big 12 Championship semifinal against 18th-ranked Oklahoma State (23-7).

"You want to rest them, but you don't ever know if you're going to be able to. The game, and flow of the game, dictates that. And boy, did we rest them. And it wasn't just resting them, it's what that group on the floor did while they were resting. So many times, I've tried to rest them, and we don't get the job done on the floor. I just thought tonight, everybody did their job, extended leads, executed plays, defended. It was just a game where you feel good as a team when you leave the floor, because everybody did something good."

Obviously not bothered by the bright lights of her first Big 12 tournament, freshman forward Nina Davis was 7-of-10 from the field and scored 18 of her team-high 20 points in the first half. Odyssey Sims' shooting struggles continued - she was just 6-of-17 from the floor - but the senior All-American still managed to add 15 points on an off night.

"I was just happy that I got off to a good start and was able to help," Davis said. "My teammates were feeding me the ball. They were shooting it, and I was getting the offensive rebounds and making shots."

Right from the start, it was clear that this was not going to be a repeat of the Lady Bears' 76-60 loss in Lawrence back on Jan. 19.

"We really wanted to play the team that beat us the worst. And that was Kansas," said sophomore point guard Niya Johnson, who had six points, four rebounds and three assists. "So, we were trying to get revenge. We were pumped, and came out energetic and fast. We wanted this win bad, because they beat us so bad at their place."

By comparison, that was nothing. This was a flat-out beat-down.

Davis got loose for nine points in the first five minutes, helping the Lady Bears jump out to a 13-4 lead with a three-point play and a pair of free throws following one of Kansas' 10 first-half turnovers.

"Nina's incredible, said senior guard Makenzie Robertson, who knocked down a pair of 3-pointers in her seven-point day. "I don't know how she can get half of her shots off, or half her rebounds, but she does. She just comes up with the ball. What she does for us is pretty special."

Baylor reeled off 14 consecutive points, taking a 22-4 lead on a Sims floater off an inbounds pass, during nearly a four-minute Kansas scoring drought. When Davis canned a pair of free throws, extending the lead to 31-6 at the 9:16 mark, she was more than doubling the Jayhawks at that point with 14 points.

Chelsea Gardner scored the first nine points for the Jayhawks (13-19), who shot a dismal 26.5 percent in the first half (9-of-34) and improved only slightly to 33.9 percent (19-of-56) by the end of the game.

The Lady Bears used a full-court press to push the pace and make Kansas work for it on every possession.

"You have to create your own energy sometimes, particularly when you're not on your home floor," Mulkey said. "It was just to create a lot of energy and set the tone for us, defensively. Don't get caught in a half-court game where they're milking the clock and we're working ourselves for 30 seconds on the clock. Create something, make things happen."

It was nearly 13 minutes into the game when someone other than the 6-3 Gardner scored for the Jayhawks. Freshman Dakota Gonzalez knocked down a jumper with 7:14 left in the opening half, ending a rough 0-for-14 opening stretch for the rest of the Kansas team.

"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. . . . Obviously, they were the more aggressive team from the tip, and we just never got back in it."

Leading 46-20 at the break, Baylor made it a 30-point game on back-to-back scores by Sims. But she went to the bench for good when she picked up her fourth foul less than six minutes into the second half.

"I left her out there with three fouls early, which I don't normally do," Mulkey said of Sims. "But the score dictated me doing that, because I thought when she picks up - or if she picks up - her fourth, I can start resting her at that point. And it kind of worked out that way."

The rest of the starters weren't far behind her. Davis played just four second-half minutes; Sune Agbuke went to the bench for good at the 11:51 mark; and Robertson sat out the last 11 minutes. Johnson finally came out with six minutes left. "I was kind of winded at the end, but I was just pushing through it," she said.

Over the final 10 minutes, the Lady Bear reserves actually extended the lead, making it a 37-point game with 1:11 left on a pair of free throws by freshman guard Imani Wright. Freshman forward Khadijah Cave did most of her damage in those closing minutes, finishing with 10 points, six rebounds and a steal.

Wright chipped in with nine points and four boards, while Ieshia Small played the point at the end of the game and picked up a couple assists.

"They're confident right now," Mulkey said. "It's March, and they're really not freshmen anymore. They're going to make mistakes, they're going to miss shots, but I think they're really picking up what it takes on the defensive end. The offensive end doesn't bother me as much as the defensive end. And I just thought we did some good stuff."

Baylor will face an Oklahoma State team that erased a seven-point halftime deficit to knock off fifth-seeded and 21st-ranked Iowa State, 67-57. Five players scored in double figures, led by Brittney Martin with 17 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and three steals.

This will be a matchup of two of the league's top senior guards in Sims and OSU's Tiffany Bias, who is averaging 14.4 points and 6.0 assists per game.

In the two previous matchups this season, Baylor pulled out a 69-66 overtime win in Stillwater, Okla., and then dominated last month's rematch in Waco, 81-64.

"You know how hard it was to leave Stillwater with a victory," Mulkey said. "(OSU coach Jim Littell) is known to change things up, not just play you man-to-man. He will play you some zone, I've seen him box-and-one on Odyssey. We're going to get in the film room tonight and do as much as we can, but there's not a whole lot to study. We all know everything about each other. When you get to this stage, it's who makes plays."

Littell said the Lady Bears feature "the best player in the country (in Sims) . . . and they've got Nina Davis, who's just a rebounding machine. We've got our work cut out for us."

Seventh-ranked West Virginia (28-3) will face Texas (21-10) in the other semifinal at 4:30 p.m. The Mountaineers struggled to get by seventh-seeded TCU, 67-59, while third-seeded Texas overcame a six-point halftime deficit to knock off No. 6 seed Oklahoma, 82-72.

Here is a link to the boxscore for Saturday's Baylor-Kansas women's basketball game.

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