OKLAHOMA CITY — Baylor might be OK without injured point guard Kristy Wallace.
Kalani Brown scored 26 points to help the third-ranked Lady Bears beat Kansas State 83-54 on Saturday in the Big 12 quarterfinals.
Wallace tore her right ACL in Baylor’s win over West Virginia on Monday. She’s an All-Conference and All-Defense selection who averaged 12.9 points, 5.3 assists and 5.0 rebounds. Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said she had a moment of weakness immediately after the injury and the team was emotional about losing a senior leader, but after that, the Lady Bears went back to work.
“Nothing really changed,” Brown said. “We went out and played our game. Kristy gave us some motivation before we huddled up, and we’ve got to do it without her. But I think we all played well.”
Freshman Alexis Morris stepped in at point guard for Wallace on Saturday and had six points and three assists in 38 minutes.
“I think Alexis Morris is competitive enough, confident enough, good enough,” Mulkey said. “She is not afraid to fail. She is not afraid of the challenge because she has been prepared by Kristy.”
Brown, a 6-foot-7 center who was named Big 12 Player of the Year earlier in the week, made 9 of 12 shots and had 13 rebounds to help steady the team. Dekeiya Cohen scored 19 points, and Juicy Landrum added 14 for the Lady Bears (29-1). They shot 50.8 percent from the floor to claim their 26th straight win.
“You expect to win when you build a program like this,” Mulkey said. “It’s next man up. Or I better say woman, heaven forbid. It’s next woman up.”
Kayla Goth scored 24 points and Peyton Williams added 10 for Kansas State (16-15), which had won its previous three games.
Baylor advanced to play TCU on Sunday. TCU beat Oklahoma 90-83 in the first quarterfinal on Saturday.
Landrum drained a 3-pointer from several feet beyond the arc to give Baylor a 28-12 lead early in the second quarter, and the Lady Bears extended their advantage to 46-27 at halftime. Brown scored 16 points on 5 for 6 shooting and Cohen had 12 points before the break. Goth scored 14 points for Kansas State in the first half, but no other Wildcat scored more than five points.
“We weren’t as competitive as we needed to be,” Kansas State coach Jeff Mittie said. “We weren’t as tough as we needed to be. We weren’t as physical as we needed to be.”
The Lady Bears held Kansas State scoreless for the first 5:50 of the second half. It was a 16-0 run that gave Baylor a 62-27 lead.
“Baylor played well, did a lot of good things,” Mittie said. “So we just didn’t have an answer for anything they did.”
Kansas State: The Wildcats were already on the outside looking in for an NCAA Tournament spot with an RPI of 87. Even with a win, it probably wouldn’t have been enough to make a case for an at-large berth.
Baylor: The Lady Bears need to handle business in the tournament to show that they should be a No. 1 seed without Wallace. The comfortable win was a solid first step.
Mulkey gave two managers their first career action in the fourth quarter. Michelle Kahue and Darrlyn McDonough suited up and both played one minute. McDonough got off a shot, but she released it right after the shot clock expired.
“I thought, ‘Isn’t this what college athletics is about,” Mulkey said. “So go write that story instead of a negative one. Two managers, probably the highlight of their life was today. You saw our kids passed up shots to get them shots. That’s the kind of bunch this team is.”
Baylor held Kansas State to six points on 1-for-11 shooting in the third quarter.
Kansas State: Waits to learn its postseason fate.
Baylor: Plays TCU on Sunday in the Big 12 semifinals.