(Photo by Michael Kinney)
By Michael Kinney
OKLAHOMA CITY – For the last four years, Baylor had made Oklahoma City a second home. In the three previous seasons, they had taken home the Big 12 Women’s Championship twice with their fans overrunning the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
With 2019 being the final season of the tournament being held in Oklahoma City before moving to Kansas City, the Bears made sure to close it out in style. They defeated Iowa State 67-49 Monday to win the program’s 10th tournament title in the 19 years coach Kim Mulkey has been head coach.
“I can’t say enough about the Baylor fans today,” Mulkey said. “They were loud and proud. They were here. Gotta keep doing it. Gotta keep feedin’ that monster.”
Baylor’s Kalani Brown was named the tournament’s MOP after posting 17 points and seven rebounds. The senior finished her Big 12 career with four regular-season championships and three tournament titles.
“We set goals in the beginning of the season. This was pretty much the final little mini goal before we make our run for the NCAA tournament,” Brown said. “So, I think that’s the only thing we haven’t checked off our list is the Final Four. Winning tonight should make our team more focused.”
Lauren Cox chipped in with 14 points, eight boards and three blocks. Chloe Jackson added 16 points.
No. 13 ISU was led in scoring by Alexa Middleton. She had a game-high 18 points on 7 of 12 shooting. Bridget Carleton added 13 points and six rebounds.
“I want to thank the people of Oklahoma City, the people here at Chesapeake Arena,” ISU coach Bill Fennelly said. “Our kids have been smiling since they landed and I’m going to get them to smile again before they leave. They provided our kids with a lot of memories and I hope that the people here enjoyed having Iowa State here.”
After finding themselves by 12 to start the game, it looked like Iowa State was on the verge of getting blown out in the first half.
However, the shooting of Middleton and the entire ISU defense allowed the Cyclones to reel the Bears back in as Baylor led 30-25 at halftime.
In the second half, whenever it looked like the Bears were on the verge of pulling away, the Cyclones wouldn’t let them get away. ISU trailed 48-44 going into the fourth.
However, in the fourth quarter, Baylor began to show why they are one of the top teams in the country. The Bears offense picked up in the paint behind Cox and Kalani Brown.
But it was Baylor’s defense that took over the night. They held the Cyclones to two points in the first five minutes of the quarter as they expanded their lead to 59-46.
Once Baylor got rolling, Iowa State had no answers and the Bears cruised the rest of the way.
“It’s a blessing to be with this team,” Jackson said. “This is a special team and it’s just surreal. This is what I came here for. I wouldn’t want to do it with any other group of girls.”
Michael Kinney is a freelance content provider with EyeAmTruth Media