Baylor and Iowa State survive Big 12 semifinals to meet for the title game
Baylor, Cox annihilate Kansas State in Big 12 semifinal, 88-60
Baylor’s (30-1) sluggish first half wasn’t enough for Kansas State (21-11) to pull off the upset against the top ranked team, losing 88-60.
K-State rattled Baylor sophomore guard Didi Richards early. She missed a jumper then one of her free throws in the first quarter. She proceeded to miss the ensuing shots, going 1 of 4 at the line.
After the first timeout the Bears dusted off the rust to go on a 6-0 run to tie the game, 16-16. KSU’s efforts against senior center Kalani Brown were futile as she collected 10 of Baylor’s 21 first quarter points. She picked up her second foul in the second quarter and sat the rest of the half.
Brown led all scorers with 24 points despite foul trouble. Her absence forced junior forward Lauren Cox to step up as she continues to be their greatest threat. Her court vision at 6’4” makes her a top three prospect in the upcoming WNBA draft. She led the Bears with 4 assists in the first half.
Sophomore guard Rachel Ranke and freshman guard Christianna Carr each scored 5 a piece to keep the Wildcats within reach in the first quarter. Carr and Peyton Williams led with a team high 12 points. KSU’s head coach Jeff Mittie picked up a technical foul with 37.2 left in the half but Cox didn’t sink any of the technical free throws for the Bears.
After the half, Baylor jumped out front going 6-of-8 from the field with Brown on the floor. Her contribution enabled Baylor to outscore KSU 23-4 in the paint in the the third quarter.
Baylor’s second half runs took the Wildcats completely out of the contest. The Bears ended the third quarter 6-of-7 from the field as KSU looked on at one of the best duo in college basketball. Cox finished with 18 points, 15 rebounds, 8 assists, two assists shy of a triple double. Brown finished with a game high 24 points and 9 rebounds.
“Cox took over down there and she made everybody around her better,” Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey said. “Freshmen came in, she would give them easy shoots. She would always defend the player where she could be the one helping the most.”
Coach Mittie shared his sentiment of their NCAA title hopes.
“That’s a team, I believe, that has a chance to win the national championship,” Mittie said. “It’s a team that has all the weapons…You have to pick your poison with them, and they’re very, very good.”
When asked about as few three teams representing the Big 12 in the NCAA tournament, Mulkey didn’t mince words.
“Did Baylor play South Carolina on their home floor earlier in the year?,” said Mulkey. “Look at that score and then look at the scores of Baylor and who they played in this league and see if they were tougher games. Those are things I would compare things to. I’m going to always promote the Big 12.”
Iowa State’s ’Splash Sisters’ dominate Texas in Big 12 semifinal win, 75-69
Iowa State (25-7) tore into Texas (23-9) early going 4-of-5 behind the arc before Texas called their first timeout.
“They really, really share the ball well,” Texas head coach Karen Aston said. “So, I think that’s always a big piece of good offensive flow is when the ball doesn’t stop in someone’s hands all the time and they have a good flow. They all share it together. They make the right plays at the right time, and they can all shoot it.”
The Cyclones knocked down 6-of-9 3-pointers by the end of the first quarter, led by Alexa Middleton who went 3 of 3.
“Alexa Middleton was really good tonight,” Aston said. “We gambled a little bit on not going under her early in the game and she made us pay for it.”
The Longhorns’ shooting heated up after the half, chipping away at the deficit to end the third quarter down 5 points, 58-53. They outscored ISU 12-6 in the paint.
Texas tied the game with 3:22 left in the fourth quarter at 64 all, courtesy of a 3-pointer from sophomore guard Destiny Littleton.
ISU senior guard Bridget Carleton had others plans, completing a clutch and-1 with less than two minutes left in the game to seal the Cyclones victory.
“That’s a great Texas team, similar to Austin when we got a lead and they came roaring back,” said ISU head coach Bill Fennelly. “The toughness and the resiliency of the last five minutes was very special and something that has kept us together. To be playing in the championship game tomorrow is a great honor for our kids.”
Baylor plays Iowa State Monday for the Big 12 Championship at 8 p.m. CST on FS1.