Behind a dominant first half from Nina Davis and balance into the second half, the Baylor Bears reminded the world of their ownership on the Big 12. Baylor beat Texas Longhorns on Monday night 75-64 to win their fifth consecutive Big 12 Championship.
It's a special process that Kim Mulkey has set into motion in Waco, Texas. Her team no longer just rebuilds, they reload and that was most evident in their win over Texas.
"We weren't picked to win the league and we won it," said Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey. "Wow."
Four players, including Davis, scored in double figures for the Bears. Alexis Prince has 10 points in the second half, finishing with 13 points. Imani Wright had 14 points and Sune Agbuke had 10 points to cap off the double digit performances. Niya Johnson had seven points and seven assists as well.
"We're not the nina davis show," said Mulkey. "We have a lot of kids who have talent out there. We're getting better. I thought we showed signs of getting better than in other games. That will come with time."
Davis finished with 16 points on 7-of-14 shooting, 11 rebounds and two blocks. She scored eight straight points for the Bears early in the first half after the Longhorns had tied the game at 6-all.
"We've come a long way since our lost to Kentucky, said Davis. "We've really grown as a team. As you can see today, we lost a lead but we were able to grow up and mature."
Davis won the tournament's Most Outstanding player for the second straight year averaging 25 points and 6.3 rebounds on on 66 percent shooting.
"It's that time of the year," said Davis on winning MOP. "I love big games and the spots light. They says big players step in big games. That's a quote I always try to lean on."
During 14-2 run, caught up was the eight straight points by Davis, and capped off by a Kristy Wallace jumper, the Bears led 20-8 with 13:00 left in the first half.
The Longhorns made multiple attempts in the first half, cutting the Bears lead to just two at 23-21 and 35-33 with 1:40 left in the first half. However, Prince and Davis powered home a 40-35 lead for Baylor at the break.
Baylor (30-3) led for 39 minutes and came out on a 13-4 run in the second half to give them their first double-digit lead of the second half at 53-42. Baylor continued their onslaught with lay ups from Johnson and Prince.
Unlike the game against Oklahoma in the semi-final, there would be no last chance effort to overcome their shooting woes. Baylor's consistency and defensive aggressiveness just was too overwhelming for Texas. 15 turnovers turned into 25 points for the Bears.
"I don't think we could get anything positive," Texas head coach Karen Aston said. "We didn't get to the foul line enough and that was a key sign in the last time we played them. We were able to be more aggressive offensively last time."
Texas Junior, Imani McGee-Stafford finished with 15 points on 7-of-13 shooting and pulled down 10 rebounds. McGee-Stafford didn't mince words with reporters in the post game when asked about the growth of Baylor's Davis. "She's a great player. Good for her."
The Longhorns (22-10) will not await the selection committee's decision. After going just 9-9 in conference player, their run to the Big 12 Championship saw a fight of a team going through a season long adversity. After losing eight of 10 games from mid-January to mid-February, the Longhorns rolled off six of seven before losing to the Bears in the Big 12 Championship game.
Baylor's fifth championship is unlike anything we've seen in the Big 12. No other team has won four championships, let alone consecutively. Oklahoma has won four and Texas A&M, Iowa State, and Texas Tech won two. That's it. Baylor has six to their name in the last seven seasons.
"We're so excited," said Davis "This is the fifth year in a row. We don't have five rings. we are forward to the tournament but we're never overlooking anyone. We were very excited today."
Johnson reiterated Davis' thoughts. "We don't want to be the team that fails the fans, the team and the coaches."
Only Marist and UConn championship runs have been longer than what Baylor has done in the Big 12. Baylor is expected to be a No. 2 seed in the upcoming NCAA tournament.
"You know, I read some where that two of the Texas players wanted a shot against us," said Mulkey. "Be careful on what you wish for."