WACO, Texas (AP) — By doing the things that coach Kim Mulkey had been emphasizing since a rare Big 12 Tournament loss, the Baylor Lady Bears opened the women’ NCAA Tournament with an overwhelming record-setting performance.
It also helped that the Lady Bears, with three post players at least 6-foot-4, were much bigger than NCAA first-timer Texas Southern.
Beatrice Mompremier had 22 points with 11 rebounds, Kalani Brown scored 21 points and freshman post Lauren Cox had 17 as the Lady Bears defeated Texas Southern 119-30 on Saturday night in the most lopsided women’s NCAA Tournament game ever. Baylor’s 119 points were the most ever in regulation of a tournament game.
“That work we’ve put in since the tournament championship game, I think you saw it today,” said Mulkey, whose team lost in the Big 12 championship for the first time in seven years.
“You saw post players feeding each other better than they have all year. I think you saw production from people immediately when they came in the game,” she said. “It’s just been an emphasis to continue to work on your defense.”
The Lady Bears (31-3) were ahead 22-0 after Alexis Jones, on her first shot in her first game since Feb. 20, hit a 3-pointer just more than 6 minutes into the game.
The 89-point margin shattered the previous record 74-point win by Tennessee over North Carolina A&T (111-37) in 1994. Baylor’s 119 points was the third most in tournament history and the most in regulation, surpassing the 116, first set by Ohio State in 1998 and twice matched by UConn, including earlier Saturday.
“Definitely, it’s an honor,” Brown said of the record-setting victory. “We all worked hard. It was a team effort. Everyone contributed.”
This wasn’t even Baylor’s biggest victory of the season. The Lady Bears beat Winthrop 140-32 on Dec. 15.
All 12 Baylor players who got in Saturday’s game scored, six of them in double figures — Nina Davis added 13 points, while Kristy Wallace and Natalie Chou each had 12. All 12 players had a rebound, and only one of them didn’t have an assist.
“Without a doubt, I thought the group that started the game was as intense as they’ve probably been all year. Their intensity, their focus, was just so much better than the last game,” Mulkey said. “We did score a lot of points, but the thing I’m most proud of is how few points we gave up.”
Joyce Kennerson had 19 points for Texas Southern (23-10), which made the NCAA Tournament for the first time after winning the SWAC Tournament.
“These young ladies have worked hard. They’ve worked really hard for me and for our university,” Lady Tigers coach Johnetta Hayes-Perry said. “Today was about them growing. They say growing, experience, building, and we’ll keep using those terms.”
BACK IN PLAY
Jones, Baylor’s second-leading scorer, hadn’t played since sustaining a bone bruise in her surgically repaired left knee at Texas on Feb. 20. She missed five games, including the Big 12 Tournament. While she didn’t start, and wasn’t needed much or at full speed, the senior guard seemed to be moving around OK during her 12 minutes. She had two quick fouls, but finished with five points, three rebounds and an assist. “I felt good with her out there,” Mulkey said. “She looked good to me.”
Baylor finished with a 60-19 rebounding advantage and 35 assists. Texas Southern had five total assists, while Baylor had seven players with at least four each. Eight different Lady Bears combined for their 11 blocked shots. Baylor shot 63 percent (48 of 76) from the field, while the Lady Tigers shot 14 percent (8 of 58).
Texas Southern: The Lady Tigers had only one senior, so they will have most everybody back next season with a taste of the NCAA Tournament. While the final result was a bit jarring, Hayes-Perry wanted her team to learn from the experience. “Since the team is young, basically the key is growth,” Kennerson said. “We have a lot more learning to do, and this is just the beginning.”
Baylor: The Lady Bears finished two points short of the NCAA Tournament record of 121 set by Alabama in a four-overtime one-point victory over Duke in 1995. Baylor is 12-1 in NCAA Tournament games in the Ferrell Center, where it is hosting first- and second-round games for the fifth year in a row.
Baylor will try to get to its ninth consecutive Sweet 16 when it plays LSU or California at home Monday night.