WACO (AP) — With No. 3 Baylor playing for the fourth time in nine days, and already with a short bench, Lauren Cox and Kristy Wallace never came out of the game. Especially when Kalani Brown again got in foul trouble against Oklahoma.
Cox scored a career-high 24 points and Wallace had 12 assists with some key free throws down the stretch despite shooting only 2-of-12 from the field as the Lady Bears stretched their winning streak to 19 games with a 74-65 win Monday night.
“I think it was definitely a tough game. With us having this long stretch of games back-to-back, I think it’s definitely a grind,” forward Dekeiya Cohen said. “We just had to keep that in our heads that we’re all fatigued, but we need to grind it out because we need to win.”
While the Lady Bears (22-1, 12-0 Big 12) never trailed, Oklahoma tied the game at 60 when Maddie Manning hit a running scoop shot with just under 5 1/2 minutes left. The Sooners (12-12, 7-6) were still within 64-63 on a three-point play by Manning just over 2 minutes later.
“I liked our fight. It was very much an in-the-moment game. When it was tied, it could have gone either way,” Sooners coach Sherri Coale said. “And it was about who was going to make more plays down the stretch. I loved being in that position and having that opportunity.”
After Manning’s three-point play, Cohen then made a layup for Baylor, which used only seven players. Guard Natalie Chou missed her second straight game because of what coach Kim Mulkey described as a tweaked left wrist.
“I thought Lauren Cox pretty much saved the day for us in the first half. I thought Dekeiya battled and was consistent in there,” Mulkey said. “Kristy struggled a little bit with her shot, but you can’t take her off the floor because she’ll make some kind of big play for you.”
The Lady Bears, who had won their first 11 Big 12 games by an average margin of 29.5 points, then sealed the game by making 8-of-10 free throws in the final 1:36. Wallace made five of those free throws.
Cohen finished with 15 points, and Brown had 10 while playing only 24 minutes.
Vionise Pierre-Louis led Oklahoma with 19 points before fouling out with 1:36 to go. Gabbi Ortiz made four 3-pointers and had 14 points, all in the second half.
“I needed to slow down. The shots I took early I just needed to get myself open better,” Ortiz said. “If I got the looks, I was going to be confident. So I think I just got going in the second half and was wanting the ball, finding the ball and I knew we needed to go on a run there.
Shaina Pellington added 14 points for the Sooners, and Manning had 13.
Oklahoma: The Sooners are fighting to continue a string of 18 straight NCAA Tournament appearances, but missed a big opportunity for a signature win. They are 2-8 against Top 25 teams this season.
Baylor: The Lady Bears’ first 24 points came from their frontcourt players in Cox, Kalani Brown and Cohen, but it wasn’t their typical dominating night in the paint. Much of Cox’s and Cohen’s damage came from midrange and long two-point shots.
The Lady Bears are 12-0 in Big 12 play for the second straight season, and fifth time in seven years. This is also the seventh time in eight years they have won at least 22 of their first 23 games overall.
TOUGH TO SLOW DOWN
Oklahoma had held its previous five opponents to 60.4 points a game while shooting only 35 percent from the field. The Sooners couldn’t maintain that pace against Baylor, which got its 74 points while making 54 percent of hits field goals (30 of 56). And that was while the Lady Bears went on 1-of-9 on 3-pointers.
The Sooners are also on the road for their next two games. They play at Kansas on Saturday night.
Baylor gets a couple of extra days before playing at home again Saturday night against No. 24 TCU.
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