Lady Bears top Kansas State, cruise into conference tournament semifinal
Kansas State already knew how good Kalani Brown is, but the Wildcats were reminded before and during the game.
After receiving her Big 12 Player of the Year award prior to tipoff, Brown scored 26 points and 13 rebounds to lead the No. 3 Baylor Lady Bears to a 83-54 win over the Kansas State Wildcats in the Big 12 tournament quarterfinals Saturday afternoon.
Brown was able to rest the entire fourth quarter along with sophomore Lauren Cox when the Lady Bears opened up a 70-33 lead after three quarters.
"I thought our defense was amazing," Brown said. "It was part of the reason why we were able to establish the lead, and me and Lauren were able to get some rest."
Baylor (29-1) also played its first full game without Kristy Wallace, who is expected to miss the postseason after tearing her ACL in the regular-season finale.
"Nothing really changed," Brown said. "We went out and played our game and Kristy gave us some motivation before we huddled up. We've got to do it without her, but I think we all played well. (Alexis Morris) stepped into the role and hit great shots. It was a great team win."
Wallace's absence paved the way for Morris to show off her skillset on a full-time basis. The true freshman finished with six points, three rebounds and three assists in 38 minutes played, and drew the tough task of defending Kansas State's leading scorer Kayla Goth.
"Morris brings something to the table that you can't coach, and that's quickness," Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey said. "Morris has been playing with Kristy all year, and her minutes will extend because we don't have Kristy."
Dekeiya Cohen was part of the reason why Baylor held a 48-12 scoring advantage in the paint, tallying 19 points on 8-of-15 shooting. Cox finished with 10 points and seven rebounds, while La Vega's Juicy Landrum hit a couple three-pointers and pitched in with 14 in her ninth start of the season.
Entering play as the top rebounding team in the country, Baylor continued to attack the glass Saturday, outrebounding Kansas State 44-20. The Lady Bears have outrebounded their opponents in all 30 games played this season.
It was also a special day for team managers Darrlyn McDonough and Michelle Kahue, who made their first appearances after being listed on the roster by Mulkey before the start of the tournament.
"I needed to get Morris off the floor and I did that with Natalie, and then it was a 40-point game at that point or something like that, and I thought, 'You know, isn't that what college athletics is about,'" Mulkey said. "So, go write that story instead of a negative one. Two managers, probably the highlight of their life was today.
"You saw our kids passed up shots to try to get them shots. That's the kind of bunch this team is. That's the kind of group I get to go in the locker room with every day, just unselfish kids that want to see people have fun and do good."
Baylor will play TCU in the Big 12 tournament semifinals Sunday at 2 p.m.