AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Kalani Brown put Baylor on her big shoulders and gave the Lady Bears a huge boost toward yet another Big 12 title.
Brown scored 35 points and No. 4 Baylor grabbed a one-game lead in the league standings over No. 6 Texas with a tough 70-67 win over the Longhorns on Monday night.
Baylor trailed most of the way, but stayed close as Brown dominated under the basket with her 6-foot-7 frame. Her five straight points in the fourth quarter keyed a 9-0 Baylor run that opened up 65-56 lead. She also grabbed 13 rebounds and Baylor outscored Texas in the paint 36-20.
“I didn’t know I had it in me,” Brown said. “We held together and it worked for us.”
She had to do it after the Lady Bears played most of the game without senior guard and scoring leader Alexis Jones, who left with a knee problem early in the first half. Baylor attempted only one 3-pointer the entire game — and that was a miss — and continually pushed the ball inside to Brown who made layup after layup and went 15 of 16 from the free throw line.
The win puts Baylor (26-2, 15-1) by itself at the top of the Big 12 with two games left for both teams. Texas (21-6, 14-2) closed within three points three times in the final 35 seconds, but Brooke McCarty’s 3-pointer after a Baylor turnover bounced off the rim just before the final buzzer.
McCarty finished with 16 points Monday night for Texas, which dropped its second straight loss after a 19-game win streak.
Texas beat Baylor in Waco in overtime two weeks earlier, a win that had snapped a 14-game losing streak to the Lady Bears.
“Everybody wanted to say we were stale food and there’s a new sheriff in town,” Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said. “When you are a championship program, you go down fighting … They gutted it out.”
The comments by Mulkey, who has taken some pointed shots at rivals over her career, seemed to rankle Texas coach Karen Aston, who acknowledged the Big 12 title may be lost.
McCarty finished with 16 points for Texas, which dropped its second straight loss after a 19-game win streak.
“I’m well aware we’ve got to talk about sheriffs and all kinds of crap. But I thought we played really hard and we just didn’t win,” said Aston, who spent a season as an assistant for Mulkey in 2006-07. “I’m over all that mess. There should be a lot of appreciation for the way these two teams play the game.”
Baylor: Baylor avoided its first regular-season sweep by a Big 12 opponent since the 2009-2010 season and put itself in excellent position to earn at least a share of a seventh consecutive league championship. Jones’ health could be a problem if she’s held out for a long time. She’s had surgery on both knees and Mulkey said she’ll be examined further Tuesday.
Texas: The Longhorns will have to shake off letting this one get away. Over two games this season, Texas has only trailed the Lady Bears a total of four minutes but will need some help to win their first Big 12 title since 2004. Now Texas has to worry about holding on to a possible No. 2 seed for the NCAA Tournament.
“We need to not worry about (the Big 12) right now. It’s not in our hands,” Aston said.
Mulkey got a technical foul within the first minute. Fortunately for her, the game official who charged her with it walked away rather than give her a chance to get another that would have tossed her from the game.
“I meant to get it. Get it early, set the tone. I wasn’t going to watch all that flopping all night,” Mulkey said.
Brown had more room to move in the second half after Texas lost 6-5 senior center Kelsey Lang for most of the second half. Lang’s right eye was scratched on a play in the first half. She tried to keep playing but managed just two shots and three rebounds before she finally had to leave the game.