As one would expect from the most lopsided game in women’s NCAA Tournament history, Baylor got a lot of production from its bench.
But what made coach Kim Mulkey the happiest about how her reserves performed Saturday in a 119-30 first round obliteration of Texas Southern was that they did other things besides pad their scoring stats.
“I think you saw production from people immediately when they came into the game,” she said. “It’s just been an emphasis to continue to work on your defense. I think our help-side defense gets better and better. I just want them to play better team defense.”
Mission accomplished, as the helpless Tigers made just eight field goals in 58 attempts and committed 21 turnovers. The top-seeded Lady Bears (31-3) should face a bit more resistance Monday night when they host ninth-seeded California in the second round at Ferrell Center in Waco, Texas.
While Baylor had enough points to win after a 34-5 first quarter, the Golden Bears (20-13) were in grind mode throughout a 55-52 squeaker over LSU. California frittered away a 10-point first half lead and needed Asha Thomas’ sixth 3-pointer with 1:19 remaining to snap a 50-50 tie.
Cal couldn’t celebrate until Raigyne Moncrief’s off-balance 3 rimmed out just before the final horn, enabling it to survive 20 turnovers and only 24 second half points. By contrast, the Baylor bench alone tallied 63 points, putting three players in double figures.
Mulkey and her players said the ability to dictate pace was a key to an offensive performance which saw Baylor sink 63.2 percent of its shots and draw 35 assists off 48 made field goals.
“One of the things we do really well is run the floor, especially our posts,” said forward Lauren Cox, who came off the bench to score 17 points in 19 minutes. “We are told to run free throw line to free throw line, and when we get out there, that’s what we’re trying to do.”
California’s win capped off a perfect first round for the Pac-12 at 7-0. A perfect second round would be even more newsworthy, and pretty unlikely. But Golden Bears coach Lindsay Gottlieb is eager for the multiple challenges Baylor will offer her squad.
“Baylor is a number one seed for a reason, but there will not be a team more excited on Monday night than us,” Gottlieb said.
The winner reaches the semifinals of the Oklahoma City Regional Friday night, when it will match up with either Tennessee or Louisville.