While Texas searched for a breakthrough victory over Baylor on Monday night, the Lady Bears were aiming for something much bigger.
Freshman Dekeiya Cohen scored 24 points and Texas nemesis Kristy Wallace added 23 to help No. 3 Baylor defeat No. 6 Texas 93-87, winning the Big 12 regular-season title for the eighth straight year.
“They don’t come to Baylor to win games, they come to Baylor to win championships,” Bears coach Kim Mulkey said.
Baylor (26-1, 16-0 Big 12) beat Texas for the 17th time in their last 18 games between the old rivals. Texas slipped to 22-5, 13-3.
In the wildly entertaining conference game, Texas senior Brooke McCarty had a career night. Although she hardly smiled during the post-game press conference, she should have taken personal satisfaction while scoring a career-high 32 points, which included a career-high seven buckets behind the three-point line.
And when senior guard Ariel Atkins drained a mid-range jumper to give the Longhorns a 51-50 lead midway through the third quarter, it appeared it might be their night. Baylor center Kalani Brown, arguably the best player in the Big 12, was benched with three personal fouls early in the quarter, and hot-shooting Texas seemed poised to win.
But for the second time this season, Wallace had other ideas. Wallace — who scored a team-high 27 points in Baylor’s 81-56 victory over Texas in Waco late last month — became the Bears’ go-to player while Brown missed the final nine minutes of the third quarter.
Wallace scored 10 her points in the third and Baylor extended its lead to 68-59 with Brown on the bench.
“I just wanted to do something to help my team,” said Wallace, who’s from Australia. “With Kalani out with some fouls, that’s a lot of scoring out of the game. I had some opportunities and my teammates set me up and we were able to take it to the rack a few times.”
While UT coach Karen Aston lauded her team’s offense, she saw obvious shortcomings in two areas. Baylor, the nation’s No. 1 rebounding team, had a 42-27 edge on the boards against Texas, the No. 2 rebounding team in the country. BU had a 14-6 advantage on offensive boards and that was a big reason the Lady Bears outscored the Longhorns 54-36 in the paint.
“You can’t get away from the rebound number at all,” Aston said. “It was very clearly the difference in the game. There were critical moments when we couldn’t get a defensive rebound. … We couldn’t get any offensive rebounds that could have given us extra possessions.”
Despite the team’s defense’s lapses, McCarty and Atkins helped keep the game within striking distance.
“These two (McCarty and Atkins) sitting next to me (at the press conference) wouldn’t allow our team to give in,” she said. “I can’t believe we only have one more home game with them.”
McCarty and Atkins, both seniors, have just two regular-season games remaining in their UT careers — Saturday at Iowa State and next Tuesday against Oklahoma at the Erwin Center.
Brown, who played just 11 minutes in the second half, scored 17 points and grabbed 12 boards. Senior forward Lauren Cox added 15 points.
McCarty said there is no time to dwell on the game, even though it was one of the best individual nights of her fabulous career. “Right now we’re just on to the next game,” she said.
Mulkey, though, was upbeat, saying winning the conference never gets old. She said her players doused her pink leather jacket with water after the game, but later amended the story.
“It’s really champagne, but don’t tell anyone at Baylor,” she joked.