Kansas City, MO-- Groans of ‘Oh no, here we go again,' could be heard throughout Municipal Auditorium as the Baylor Bears jumped out to an 18-4 lead over Kansas State in the first half of the Big 12 championship game Saturday evening.
However, unlike Texas, the Bears (27-3, 14-2) withstood the K-State runs and maintained their lead to beat the Wildcats 68-55 for their first-ever Big 12 Tournament championship.
The Big 12's regular season champions were the aggressors from the beginning, grabbing offensive rebounds, scoring from the inside and the outside and forcing turnovers. During Baylor's opening push the Wildcats shot just 1-for-8 and turned the ball over six times.
The only offensive consistency for K-State (23-7, 12-4) came from All-Tournament selection Megan Mahoney, who established an offensive presence early by attacking the basket and scoring six of the Wildcats nine points.
However, Baylor brought to the hardwood a balanced offensive attack that left the backcourt wide-open in the first half.
Chameka Scott wasn't shy on the perimeter taking open shots as the Wildcat defense sank in the frontcourt on Steffanie Blackmon and Sophia Young. The junior guard went 4 of 6 from the field including three 3-pointers for 12 first half points.
Kansas State Coach Deb Patterson said she was willing to test Baylor's perimeter and play the odds in order to help in the paint.
"If you're going to give them a little bit of ground to try to help with Sophia (Young) and Steffanie (Blackmon), you measure are they going to make you pay? Do they have the hot hand?
"What we found tonight as we started the game, they did," Patterson said.
The Bears ended the half with an 11-point advantage.
The second half opened in similar fashion to the first 20 minutes, except this time it was the Baylor frontcourt that went on the attack.
Tournament MVP Sophia Young scored six quick points while the Wildcats managed just two points on nine offensive possessions. An Emily Niemann second chance basket put the Bears up by 17 points with just over 14 minutes remaining.
For the second consecutive game K-State would have to overcome a 17-point deficit in order to win the contest.
Kansas State responded and made one final run, outscoring Baylor 13-0 over a span of seven minutes. Mahoney led the charge scoring eight of those points in the paint, from the outside and at the free-throw line.
Baylor Coach Kim Mulkey-Robertson wasn't surprised by the Wildcat run after what had happened to Texas, but she just needed to remind her team.
"They score a lot of points in a short period of time," Mulkey-Robertson said.
"And at the timeout when they cut the lead I said, ‘Here's what coach was telling you about and they just looked at me like,' ‘yeah coach we listen, but we'll get back out there and extend it a little more.' They just have so much confidence in themselves."
The door slammed shut on the Wildcats at the 7:33 mark as Mahoney lay face down on the court while Chelsea Whitaker led a fast break scoring a lay-up and the foul shot.
Mahoney hurt her left ankle chasing after a loose ball. The momentum had shifted and K-State's leading scorer left the game with 17 points and five assists.
Kansas State didn't respond well and wasted scoring opportunities with forced shots and sloppy play. With Mahoney out, the ‘Cats scored just three field goals in the final minutes.
"Megan obviously was the difference maker in the game," All-Tournament selection Kendra Wecker said.
"I think when she went out we still had the game within reasonable reach, but we came down and we turned the ball over on offense and they converted on the other end of the floor."
And it was Young who reaped the benefits adding eight more points to finish the night with a game-high 18 points.
"They (Baylor) competed the game with such confidence, intelligence and aggressiveness," Patterson said. "They were very, very good in all aspects and truly played like champions tonight. Baylor was consistently good and we were very sporadic."
Wecker finished the night with 14 points on 5 of 15 shooting and a Big 12 title game record 16 rebounds, her 51st career double-double. While Laurie Koehn hit three 3-pointers in the first half, but went 0-for-4 in the second half. No other Wildcat scored above four points.
Mulkey-Robertson attributed her team's championship double-dip to its' superb defense.
"I thought that (defense) won the game for us throughout the course of their runs offensively. It was something I told the players in pre-game that we're going to score on Kansas State, but we're going to have to guard them like we haven't guarded people in a while. I thought our defense set the tone tonight from the very beginning."
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