AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Baylor had barely clinched its eighth consecutive Big 12 title when the team started passing around green and gold baseball caps to commemorate the championship.
The fact that they were even at the ready — and worn into the post-game news conference after a 93-87 win over Texas Monday night— shows just how dominant the Lady Bears are in one of the best conferences in the country.
And just how confident they are in their long-standing reign over it all. The Lady Bears had figured this could be their night.
“Hey, it wasn’t raining when Noah built the Ark,” Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said of the hats. “It took some planning.”
Kristy Wallace scored 23 points and had seven assists and Dekeiya Cohen scored 24 for Baylor, which had to overcome a third quarter surge by Texas to get the win, its 18th in the last 19 matchup with their chief league rival. With two games left on the regular season, Baylor is gunning for a third undefeated conference season in school history.
As the final seconds ticked off Monday night, a large group of visiting fans chanted, “B-U!” from behind the Baylor bench.
“These kids don’t come to Baylor to win games, they come to win championships,” Mulkey said. “They have a competitive fire.”
Wallace scored 14 in the third quarter and rescued the Lady Bears after Texas had started the second half with a charge and briefly held the lead. Wallace scored eight in a 14-5 run that allowed Baylor to take control of the game keep Texas at a safe distance the rest of the way.
Texas came in two games behind Baylor and needed a win to keep its own conference title hopes alive. Brooke McCarty led the Longhorns (22-5, 13-3) with 32 points, with 16 in the fourth quarter in a furious comeback bid
The teams could meet again in the Big 12 tournament. They will start on opposite sides of the tournament bracket with a course set to meet in the title game. And there’s always a potential matchup in the NCAA Tournament as well.
Baylor’s title meant another season without a trophy for Texas seniors like McCarty.
“Of course we’re frustrated,” McCarty said. “We’ll see them again.”
Baylor: The Lady Bears overcame foul trouble to star forward Kalani Brown and the big push from Texas in the third. Brown was dominating the boards and the defensive space in the lane, but picked her second and third fouls in the first minute of the third. Texas led 51-50 when Ariel Atkins stabbed away a pass and coasted in for a layup. Wallace took over from there, picking her shots on jumpers and layups.
“That’s a lot of scoring out of the game,” Wallace said. “We didn’t panic … I just found my opportunities and my teammates found me and I took it to the rack a few times.”
Texas: Poor rebounding and defensive lapses against Wallace and Cohen let the game get away with free looks at the basket. Forwards Joyner Holmes and Jatarie White combined for 18 points and 10 rebounds, but even with Brown’s long absence, the Longhorns were outrebounded 42-27.
“You can’t get away from the rebounding number at all, it was very clearly the difference in the game,” Texas coach Karen Aston said. “There were critical moments in the game we couldn’t get a defensive rebound.”
MCCARTY’S SHOOTING TOUCH
A good sign for Texas has been McCarty’s scoring run of late. She’s led Texas in scoring four straight games and seems primed for the postseason after a midseason dip in form. McCarty even made an off-balance, hook shot, buzzer-beating 3-pointer from the wing at the end of the third quarter.
“The basket’s getting big for her again. That’s a good thing for us down the stretch,” Aston said.
Baylor scored 93 despite making just one 3-pointer and the Lady Bears attempted only five from long range. But they shot 52 percent from the field and went 18 of 22 on free throws. In the decisive third quarter, Baylor made 11 of 16 field goals.
Baylor dressed only eight players and used seven.
“It’s pretty easy to coach with only eight. You look around and say, ‘How many fouls do you have? You’re in,'” Mulkey said.
Baylor plays at TCU on Saturday.
Texas plays at Iowa State on Saturday