In their 83-49 victory over No. 12 Oklahoma State, the No. 2 Lady Bears proved that their high-scoring offense has not come at the cost of a well-executed defense.
“What I have said about Baylor before is that they are the best team in America,” Oklahoma State head coach Jim Littell said. “This is a team that is the greatest defensive team in the history of women’s collegiate basketball. They do so many things to you that make it difficult to score.”
After a layup from senior forward Brooklyn Pope – who scored 13 of Baylor’s first 23 points and led Baylor with 18 – Baylor took a 23-15 towards the beginning of the first half.
“The defense they played was three people on Brittney (Griner), so I just sat in one spot and if the guards penetrate the right way like they did, I will be wide open and will hit the shot as long as I make the move quickly enough,” Pope said about her high-scoring first half.
After an 8-0 run from Oklahoma State, including three layups from junior guard Tiffany Bias and a pair of free throws from sophomore forward Liz Donohoe, the Cowgirls were able to tie the game at 23 midway through the first half.
But in spite of Oklahoma State’s hard fought effort to counteract every attack brought by Baylor, the Lady Bears struck back by turning up the speed of the game to keep control in their own hands.
“They turned it up,” Littell said. “They decided that it was their time to play now…when we got to 23-23, they just rallied and played like they were capable of. They turned it up to a different level.”
From there, Baylor went on a 19-3 run sparked by a three-pointer from junior point guard Odyssey Sims. The Lady Bears closed out the half on that run and entered the locker room with a 42-26 lead over the Cowgirls.
Baylor started the second half with the same defensive intensity they ended the first one with. Their 20-3 run after halftime was started by a steal and layup from Sims for the first basket of the half. From there, the defensive intensity grew and the Cowgirls never had a chance to catch up again.
“I just know this: defense and half court execution of your offense are two critical areas to win national championships,” Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey said. “I’ve been fortunate to coach players that understand that I will never let up on the defensive end of the floor.”
While holding Oklahoma State to 49 points, the Lady Bears only allowed the Cowgirls to shoot 28.1 percent form the field in the first half and 32.7 percent all night. They also came away with 13 steals from the Cowgirls.
Only two games into conference play, the Lady Bears know their mission. And judging by the way they executed tonight, they are ready to bring home back-to-back Big 12 championships for the first time in conference history before becoming back-to-back national champions.
“[Oklahoma State] was a team that was leading the nation in points scored,” Mulkey said. “With two games into conference, we have held teams to the 30s and 40s. You have to be proud of the defense.”