WACO, Texas — After combining for only 17 points and being in foul trouble in a recent game for No. 3 Baylor, Kalani Brown and Lauren Cox agreed they had to prove a point.
“We had to show we’re still there,” Brown said.
The 6-foot-7 Brown, a junior who is the Big 12’s top scorer, and the 6-foot-4 Cox have certainly posted up big for the Lady Bears (17-1, 7-0 Big 12). Baylor takes a 14-game winning streak into its home game Thursday against No. 6 Texas (15-3, 6-1), a matchup of the Big 12’s top two teams.
“They needed to redeem themselves after the Oklahoma game,” coach Kim Mulkey said. “I think they were obviously on a mission to not let the team down again because we do rely on those kids so much, and we ask them to do a lot of things.”
Since the duo’s rough outing — when the Lady Bears still won by 22 points, their slimmest winning margin this season — Brown and Cox have combined for 95 points, 62 rebounds, 14 assists and 14 blocked shots in their last two games .
Tara VanDerveer, who has coached plenty of big post players during her Hall of Fame career at Stanford, called Baylor’s duo “double trouble” after the Lady Bears beat the Cardinal by 24 points early in the season.
“I think a lot of teams, they have like one of us. They have one big player, and a couple of others that are 6-foot or something like that,” Cox said. “But I think it’s real special that both of us are on the same team.”
Brown and Cox account for 41 percent of the points scored by the Lady Bears, and grab 37 percent of the rebounds. In conference play, that is up to 44 percent of the scoring and 42 percent of the rebounding.
After they became the first Big 12 teammates to both have 19 rebounds in the same conference game, a 25-point victory in their last game, Kansas State coach Jeff Mittie likened Brown and Cox as having “a chance to play volleyball against the glass and rebound it more.”
Baylor finished with a 69-24 rebounding margin over the Wildcats. Cox and Brown combined for 19 of Baylor’s 32 offensive rebounds.
“Their front line’s as formidable as one that I think that is in the country. Their size obviously, their experience in there,” Mittie said.
“That’s a lot of rebounds for two girls that play together. They have to share the rebounding and not fight over it,” Mulkey said. “And to think that you had that many come off the boards and they both had the same number of rebounds is pretty impressive.”
The Lady Bears are the national leader with an average rebound margin of 19.7, which is 5 1/2 more per game than second-best Texas.
Brown leads the Big 12 with 21.7 points per game and her 71 percent shooting from the field, and the junior center is fourth in the league with 9.3 rebounds per game. Cox is the league’s second-leading rebounder at 9.9 per game while also ranking 11th with 15.1 points per game and 10th with 3.4 assists — many of those to Brown, who has often returned the favor.
At Iowa State days after the Oklahoma game, Brown had four assists — all in one quarter, and all to Cox. In that same quarter, Cox had two assists on baskets by Brown.
“We have great chemistry together, we really trust each other. So I think that’s where all of the great passing comes from,” said Cox, now starting as a sophomore. “Last year, there were five of us, so we weren’t really getting to play with each other that much. And this year we’re the two main post players, and so we get to work with each other a lot more.”
Both play nearly 28 minutes per game, with only senior guard Kristy Wallace playing more — and just barely at exactly 28 minutes a game.
“Lauren and I have played together long enough to know how we want the ball,” Brown said. “I guess we just know each other. We know our strengths and our weaknesses, and we’re not going to put each other in jeopardy in any kind of way, or in a bad situation.”