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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Baylor is back in a familiar place.
Kalani Brown scored 23 points in 21 minutes, and the top-ranked Lady Bears breezed past Kansas State 88-60 in a Big 12 Tournament semifinal on Sunday. Baylor (30-1) will go for its ninth tournament title in 11 years on Monday night against either No. 19 Iowa State or No. 21 Texas.
“I’m pumped,” Brown said. “I’m excited playing for another championship. That never gets old.”
Juicy Landrum scored 19 points and Lauren Cox had 18 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists for the Lady Bears (30-1), who won their 22nd straight game. Baylor shot 45 percent from the floor and outrebounded the Wildcats 54-32.
“That’s a team that, I believe, has a chance to win the national championship,” Kansas State coach Jeff Mittie said. “It’s a team that has all the weapons.”
Peyton Williams and Christianna Carr each scored 12 points for Kansas State (21-11), which had its six-game winning streak snapped.
Kansas State jumped out to a 14-7 lead in the early minutes on the strength of its outside shooting, but Baylor rallied and led 21-18 at the end of the first quarter.
“Weather the storm,” Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said. “You keep playing good defense. You keep running the floor, shooters will fatigue. Usually, you lose your legs first when you shoot a lot of perimeter shots like that.”
The Lady Bears held Kansas State to 18-percent shooting in the second quarter to take a 47-29 halftime lead. Brown was flawless in the first half — she scored 14 points on 6-for-6 shooting in 11 minutes.
Cox had 10 points and 10 rebounds at the break.
“I was trying to be aggressive going to the basket and my shots weren’t falling, but the refs were calling fouls and I was knocking down my free throws and being aggressive on the glass and attacking it,” Cox said.
Mittie grew frustrated with the officiating and was called for a technical foul in the final minute of the second quarter.
Baylor extended its advantage to 32 in the third quarter and led 76-45 at the end of the period.
A skirmish in the fourth quarter led to double technicals for Brown and Kansas State’s Jasauen Beard, but Baylor had the game well in hand at that point.
Kansas State: The Wildcats appear to be secure in their quest for an NCAA Tournament berth. They entered the day No. 30 in the RPI rankings. This loss won’t hurt their chances.
Baylor: The Lady Bears once again rolled past an overmatched team — they pounded Texas Tech 100-61 in the quarterfinals on Saturday. It’s a good sign for a team that likely won’t see top competition for at least a few rounds in the NCAA Tournament.
Cox led the Lady Bears with eight assists. Many came on passes to Brown, her fellow post player.
“I would just turn to the middle and she would have the lob,” Cox said. “We just really work well together, kind of that unspoken connection. I know where she wants the ball.”
Kansas State didn’t have its usual size advantage against the 6-foot-7 Brown and the 6-4 Cox.
“We’re used to being the team that’s a little longer and a little taller on average than everybody else, and I think that was a big challenge to try to move the ball against length,” Williams said.
SHE SAID IT
Mulkey on the strength of the Big 12 and whether it is underrated heading into the NCAA Tournament: “I’m going to be partial and I’m going to always promote the Big 12. The second-place team in the SEC was who? See, y’all don’t even know.”
Kansas State likely will play in the NCAA Tournament.
Baylor will play in the Big 12 championship game on Monday night.
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