Smith, Cox double-doubles for Big 12 champion No. 2 Baylor
WACO, Texas (AP) — No. 2 Baylor celebrated a decade of dominance in the Big 12 after double-doubles by NaLyssa Smith and Lauren Cox.
Smith had 23 points and 13 rebounds, while Cox had a season-high 22 points with 10 rebounds in an 83-58 victory over Kansas State on Saturday night. The Lady Bears then cut down the nets to mark their 10th consecutive conference title, which was secured days before tipoff.
“It never gets old, it is hard to do,” coach Kim Mulkey shouted to the cheering crowd after the game. “And when you have a target on your chest that says Baylor University, you’re getting everybody’s best shot, and we’re still hanging in there.”
Baylor (27-1, 16-0 Big 12) had clinched at least a share of the Big 12 regular-season title with a 64-39 win at West Virginia on Monday, two nights before second-place TCU’s loss to Texas that gave the Lady Bears the outright title.
After scoring the first 10 points against the Wildcats, Baylor led throughout. Smith, the sophomore forward, scored six of those on way to her 10th double-double this season.
The defending national champion Lady Bears have the nation’s longest active streak with their 10 consecutive regular-season conference titles.
“That’s what we came here for. We came to win championships, and not just Big 12 championships,” said Cox, adding that the Lady Bears want to win another national title.
Green and gold confetti fell from the rafters at the Ferrell Center after the game. The Lady Bears donned championship T-shirts and hats, and the trophies from each of their 10 Big 12 regular season titles in a row were lined up on the court in front of them.
“This is why I came here, to win championships, that’s what Mulkey’s all about,” said Juicy Landrum, the hometown player who like Cox is a senior.
Landrum had 14 points and six assists, while DiDi Richards had a career-high 10 assists for Baylor.
The Lady Bears have won 57 Big 12 regular-season games in a row, and also have a national-best home winning streak of 55 games. Both of those streaks began after a home loss to Texas on Feb. 6, 2017.
Angela Harris had 17 points for Kansas State (14-13, 8-8), and senior guard Peyton Williams had all 14 of her points after halftime.
Cox, a preseason AP All-America pick, had her seventh double-double this season and her 35th in 129 career games. The 6-foot-4 senior forward missed eight games in non-conference play with a right foot issue.
“Just on film, I thought she looked as good as I’ve seen her,” K-State coach Jeff Mittie said. “Looks healthy again, looks like in shape, certainly had a good rhythm. ... Lauren looked very decisive, very decisive.”
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The Lady Bears were held to a season-low 54 points in a 14-point win at Kansas State three weeks earlier. They had a 44-18 point halftime lead, and led by as many as 30 points in the second half. Their 83 points matched their season average.
Kansas State: The Wildcats were the only team in the country with two players averaging double-doubles, but neither managed a double-double against Baylor. Williams, who came in averaging 15.3 points and 11.7 rebounds, had 14 points and five rebounds. Freshman center Ayoka Lee, who averaged 16.1 points and 11.3 rebounds, had eight points and 11 rebounds. Lee had 14 points and 12 rebounds in the first game against Baylor.
Mittie said Cox and Smith were aggressive early and “really took it at our 4s and 5s, and we were behind every play in that stretch.”
Baylor: The Lady Bears had only seven turnovers while having 26 assists on 35 made field goals. They shot 53% (35 of 66) against a K-State defense that had held opposing teams to 36.6% shooting.
Kansas State: plays at Oklahoma State on Tuesday night.
Baylor: plays its regular season home finale Thursday night against Texas, the last Big 12 opponent to win in Waco.