WACO, Texas (AP) A week ago, No. 4 Baylor was a game behind Texas and its streak of Big 12 regular-season championships appeared to be in danger.
But the Lady Bears held quite a celebration Saturday, cutting down the nets as confetti floated around them after clinching their seventh straight title and earning coach Kim Mulkey her 500th career win with a 86-48 victory over Texas Tech.
”This is about these kids,” Mulkey said. ”These kids understand when they come here this program is about championships and maintaining a level of excellence that’s elite. It’s never easy. I know people think it is, but it’s not. There’s an expectation level that some kids can’t handle. These players come in here and buy into the system and it’s all about what they do.”
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Baylor (27-2, 16-1) took the lead in the standings with a road win over No. 6 Texas on Monday, then was given an opportunity to take the title outright Saturday because of the Longhorns’ third straight loss, a 70-66 defeat to Iowa State on Friday night.
The Lady Bears took advantage immediately, shooting 62 percent in the first quarter for a 28-11 lead. They retained control the rest of the way behind senior Nina Davis’ 16 points, which paced five scorers in double digit.
”We always have confidence in ourselves,” Davis said. ”We were (behind) Texas at one point in time and they were a great team, but we didn’t focus on that. We were just worried about ourselves and taking it game by game and just trying to get a clinch today.”
Alexis Prince, Lauren Cox and Kalani Brown scored 13 points apiece for Baylor, and Beatrice Mompremier recorded a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds.
Larryn Brooks led Texas Tech (12-16, 4-13) with 15 points. The Red Raiders didn’t have another double-figure scorer and remained winless on the road in Big 12 play.
”We haven’t shot the ball that well all league (season),” Texas Tech coach Candi Whitaker said. ”We haven’t shot the ball as well as we thought we would going into the season for whatever reason. Baylor is obviously super long and makes it hard for anything in the paint, but when you get an open look, you’ve got to knock it down. When you don’t, it’s a struggle against a team like Baylor.”
Texas Tech: The Red Raiders have played the Lady Bears tough at times over the past few seasons, but they were never in this one. Texas Tech shot 25 percent in the first quarter, was outscored 54-24 in the paint and had 10 shots blocked. The Red Raiders meet TCU next with a chance to finish as high as seventh in the Big 12, but they could also finish as low as ninth.
Baylor: The Lady Bears cut down the nets at the Ferrell Center after claiming the Big 12 title. Six of their seven straight conference crowns have been outright, with only a share with West Virginia in 2013-14 keeping them from taking every title by themselves since the 2010-11 season. Baylor will head to the Big 12 tournament as the No. 1 seed.
In the postgame celebration, Mulkey voiced her displeasure to the negative coverage in the aftermath of the allegations against the school and its football program.
”If someone’s around you and they ever say, `I will never send my daughter to Baylor.’ You knock them right in the face. Because these kids are on this campus. I work here. My daughter went to school here and it’s the damn best school in America.”
Mulkey went on in the postgame press conference to further explain her comment. ”I’m just tired of hearing it. I’m tired of people talking on it on a national scale that don’t know what they’re talking about,” she said. ”If they didn’t sit in those meetings and they weren’t a part of the investigation, you’re repeating things that you heard. It’s over. It’s done. This is a great institution, and I would send my daughter here, and I would pay for anyone else’s daughter to come here. I work here every day. I’m in the know. And I’m tired of hearing it. This is a great institution. The problems that we have at Baylor are no different than the problems at any other school in America. Period. Move on. Find another story to write.”
LADY BEARS OWN LEAGUE
Baylor has dominated the Big 12 to the tune of a 116-7 record over the past seven years. The Lady Bears haven’t dropped more than two conference games in any of those seasons and twice ran through the league undefeated (2011-12 and 2012-13). They have also won 18 straight Big 12 tournament games and six straight titles.
With the win, Mulkey becomes the second fastest to 500 wins in NCAA history, having reached that mark in 594 games. Only her mentor, former Louisiana Tech coach Leon Barmore, needed fewer games (576) to reach the 500-win plateau.
`ENORMOUS AND GOOD’
Whitaker had high praise for Baylor’s front line, particularly 6-foot-7 center Brown. The sophomore has been dominant at times in the paint for the Lady Bears, most notably with a 35-point, 13-rebound performance in their win Monday against Texas.
”She’s enormous and good, and they all are,” Whitaker said. ”What Kalani has done from her freshman to sophomore year is incredible, and I think a lot for young kids to look at. What she’s committed to, to getting herself in shape and working on herself, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen such a change in one year.”
Texas Tech returns home to close the regular season against TCU on Monday.
Baylor hits the road to meet No. 16 Oklahoma on Monday.