Defending national champ Baylor women open with 97-29 win
WACO, Texas (AP) — Preseason AP All-America post Lauren Cox and her Baylor teammates got their national championship rings before the season opener, then scored the game’s first 37 points to coast to an easy win.
“This thing is heavy, it’s like a paperweight,” Cox said, holding the ring after the game. “We’ve been waiting for it, so it’s exciting to finally have it.”
Cox, fully healthy after hurting her knee in the second half of the national title win over Notre Dame seven months ago, had 11 points with 10 rebounds. NaLyssa Smith also had a double-double with 21 points and 14 rebounds as the Lady Bears overwhelmed New Hampshire 97-29 on Tuesday night.
“I thought considering that we were coming off a ring ceremony that was just awesome, focusing, kind of out of rhythm a little bit, didn’t go back in the locker room and do our normal routine, I thought we did fine,” said coach Kim Mulkey, who opened her 20th season as Baylor’s coach.
The Lady Bears got their rings and raised a third national title banner in a pregame ceremony.
New Hampshire then missed its first 18 shots and didn’t score until Maggie Ahearn’s bounce pass to Caroline Soucy for a layup with 6:15 left in the second quarter.
“Obviously this is going to be a really tough game and almost gets to the point where you don’t want to look at the score,” 10th-year New Hampshire coach Maureen Magarity said. “Hopefully it just shows their character a little bit, and I definitely thought they did that in the second half.”
Baylor led 51-3 at halftime, the fewest points scored in a half by a Lady Bears opponent, but not the lowest for a Division I team. Western Kentucky had a 56-2 halftime lead over Lipscomb three seasons ago, a game the Hilltoppers won 87-35.
Erin DeGrate, a transfer from Texas Tech who previously played for Louisville, had 18 points in her Baylor debut, and Queen Egbo had 14 points while limited to only 14 minutes because of foul trouble.
Amanda Torres led the Wildcats with 12 points, 11 of them after halftime. No other player scored more than three points for New Hampshire, which shot 15.5 percent (9 of 58).
Cox got frustrated at times when making only 4 of 13 shots (31 percent). The 6-foot-4 senior was a 50-percent shooter in 109 games the past three seasons.
“I just wasn’t knocking down the shots that I usually make,” she said. “You just have to do other things.”
Along with the double-double, Cox added three assists, two blocks and a steal while playing 22 turnover-free minutes.
SIXTH TO STARTING
Smith was one of the best players off the bench in the Big 12 last season, when she started only once as a freshman. She is now in the starting five after the graduation of standout post Kalani Brown.
“She brings a level of confidence from her freshman year,” Mulkey said. “She brings a different style. She’s not replacing Kalani. They’re two totally different position-type players. And yet at the same time, she’s just got that athleticism about her. She’s always going to be around the rim, she’s going to always run the floor.”
New Hampshire: The Wildcats from the America East Conference have 11 underclassmen and several players coming back from injury last season, when they won only six games. Senior center Ashley Storey, who led the team with 17.1 points a game last season, finished scoreless. She was 0-for-13 shooting before fouling out midway through the fourth quarter.
Baylor: The Lady Bears had 11 players get in the game — all of them scored and all of them had a rebound. Baylor has a 30-game winning streak and has won 40 in a row at home.
New Hampshire plays at Bryant University in Rhode Island on Saturday, then has its home opener next Tuesday against Boston University.
Baylor plays the second of five consecutive home games to start the season, when the Lady Bears host Grambling on Friday night.
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