Estero, FL — The No. 5 Baylor Lady Bears are your 2016 Gulf Coast Showcase champions! With an 85-68 win over the No. 8 Ohio State Buckeyes, the Lady Bears boldly claimed the title on Sunday night (Nov. 27) after three games in three days at Germain Arena.
“I’m excited; it's always good to win a championship,” senior guard Alexis Jones — who recorded 20 points, five rebounds, and seven assists — said. “We were very poised these three games, and it’s an exciting feeling to take back home that championship.”
Baylor sophomore forward Beatrice Mompremier connected on the Lady Bears’ first possession of the game, propelling a 6-0 run in the first minute. She set the tone for Baylor from the tip and ultimately owned the stat sheet with an impressive 13 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks. A quick minute later, the Buckeyes got their first points on the board with a three-pointer from sophomore guard Sierra Calhoun.
Baylor tipped the game off with hot shooting and finished the quarter 47 percent from the field including 1-1 from three-point land. However, Ohio State held the Lady Bears scoreless for the last four minutes of play, and was thus able to stay within striking distance. The Lady Bears took a 19-15 lead after the first 10 minutes of play; Mompremier led all scorers at the end of one with seven points and four rebounds.
“Our team defense was very good in this tournament,” Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey said. “We’re [going to] always guard you, man, we’re gonna be aggressive.”
Back-to-back jumpers by senior forward Nina Davis and Jones increased Baylor’s lead to eight in the first two minutes of the second quarter and a 6-0 run by Baylor gave the Lady Bears their largest lead of the game at 36-23. Ohio State held Baylor scoreless for three minutes before Jones hit a three-pointer to end the drought and add to the nine points she racked up throughout the quarter.
Baylor remained dominant while holding the Buckeyes to zero field goals in the final 5:42 of the second quarter and forced Ohio State into shooting under 30 percent to close out the half. Jones led all scorers with 12 points and three rebounds as the Lady Bears took a 38-25 lead into the locker room.
“We’re big, and we have a lot of depth,” Mulkey said. “I can throw a lot of bodies at you. I’ve got five post players that can play anywhere in the country and they unselfishly have chosen to play together in this program. I can go as athletic as I need to go, as small as I need to go, and as big as I need to go. And that’s a luxury that I have.”
Senior forward Shayla Cooper ended the Buckeyes’ scoring drought to open the third quarter by hitting a jumper after the first 90 seconds of action. Baylor senior guard Alexis Prince responded with a jumper of her own, and both teams were on the board for the second half.
Four minutes into the third period, Ohio State junior guard Kelsey Mitchell hit two free throws to lift her points total to six as she passed Tracey Hall for seventh in school history with 1,914 career points.
Mitchell went on to drop eight points in the third quarter and totaled 12 heading into the final 10 minutes of the game. Baylor held Ohio State scoreless for the last 2:42 of the third period, but a buzzer-beating layup by senior forward Khadijiah Cave gave the Lady Bears an extra boost and 62-46 lead to start the final quarter. Jones remained the leading scorer for both squads with 15 points in addition to three rebounds.
“I had a pretty decent performance all over,” Jones said. “But all together, we played good. Our post players in general just came out and played hard.”
Jones continued her hot hand, sinking a three-pointer in the first 30 seconds of the fourth quarter. The ball remained in Baylor’s court for the rest of the game, and with five minutes to play, the Lady Bears held a 20-point lead over the Buckeyes.
Mitchell fouled out with a team-high 17 points and Baylor had four players of its own in foul trouble nearing the end of the game. The Lady Bears finished with a 47 percent clip from the field compared to Ohio State’s 34 percent. Baylor out-rebounded the Buckeyes 52-29 and also scored a staggering 48 points — over half of the Bears’ total points — in the paint compared to Ohio State’s 26.
Jones led all scorers with 20 points and five rebounds as the Lady Bears sealed the win and championship by a final score of 85-68. Jones was joined by four fellow teammates in notching double-digit points as Baylor moved to 7-1 on the season.
“Our goal is the Final Four,” Mulkey said. “We feel like we’re one of the top teams in the country and we’ve got to go do it.”