Kalani leads No. 2 Baylor women in 84-70 win over No. 9 UCLA
WACO, Texas (AP) Kalani Brown is 20 pounds lighter this season, and Baylor's 6-foot-7 sophomore post player is moving smoothly up and down the court. And she's dominating on both ends for the second-ranked Lady Bears.
Brown set career highs with 25 points, 19 rebounds and six assists and Baylor took over after halftime on way to an 84-70 victory over ninth-ranked UCLA on Monday night.
''My game is elevated,'' said Brown, the Louisiana native who said she ate healthier and worked extra throughout the offseason. ''Being able to take off getting my second wind, it feels really good.''
UCLA coach Cori Close put it simply: ''Kalani Brown was a hand full.''
Baylor had trailed 48-41 at halftime, but got even in the first 2 minutes of the third quarter. Alexis Prince hit a 3-pointer before Alexis Jones and Brown each had baskets, and assisted each other.
Up by only two going to the fourth quarter, a layup by Jones soon after that started a 14-0 run over a 5-minute span for the Lady Bears (2-0). That spurt included a 13-foot straight-up jumper for Brown, who finished 12-of-15 shooting.
Asked if it was the kind of overall game she expected of Brown, who also matched her career high with five blocked shots, Baylor coach Kim Mulkey responded, ''Yes, quite frankly. … Kalani was one of the guys in the Oregon State game at the end of the year that wasn't afraid to get in there and bang with you. Yeah, that's why she stayed on the floor.''
Jordin Canada led UCLA (1-1) with 23 points, while Monique Billings had 16 points with 10 rebounds. Kari Korver had 13 points.
Preseason All-America forward Nina Davis, Prince and Jones each had 15 points for Baylor. All played the entire second half, when Baylor outscored UCLA 43-22, and Kristy Wallace played the entire game.
''Our defense, not only picked it up in intensity, we just had positioning where we were smarter,'' Mulkey said. ''And I just think that you went with the most experienced, veteran players that could produce in a big game.''
UCLA: While the Bruins played like a top-10 team most of the first half, they just didn't have a big body to match up with Brown. After six 3-pointers (on 15 shots), helped UCLA take as much as an 11-point lead in the first half, they were 0-for-7 from long range after halftime. ''They came out in the second half and exerted their will,'' Close said of Baylor.
Baylor: With consecutive games against top-10 opponents Mulkey leaned on the returning players. The three freshmen for the Lady Bears are going to be standout players, but Lauren Cox was 0-for-4 shooting with two rebounds in 4 minutes, and Natalie Chou was 0-for-1 with two rebounds in 12 minutes. Juicy Landrum didn't even play. All three got significant action in the season-opening rout over Houston Baptist.
Baylor certainly lived up to its No. 2 ranking against another top-10 team, and gets another quick test at No. 3 UConn. UCLA has a chance to recover with the next two games at home and could stay in the top 10 with a couple of wins.
The Lady Bears had a 52-25 rebounding edge. Take out Brown's 19 (including eight offensive boards), and Baylor still would have a 33-25 advantage.
MAYBE IN MARCH?
''All the credit to Baylor, they showed great experience and poise, and I hope we get to play them again,'' Close said.
When Mulkey was asked how blunt she was with her halftime message, she said, ''It's too early in the year to get ugly with them.'' Brown had a grin on her face when she rolled her eyes. Asked if she was getting soft, Mulkey then replied, ''I'm just mellowing in my old age.''
UCLA returns home to play at home twice in three days. The Bruins play Southern University on Friday, then host Cal Poly on Sunday.
Baylor hits the road for the first time and plays another top-10 opponent. The Lady Bears play Thursday at third-ranked UConn.