OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — It didn’t take long for Baylor to establish that this meeting with Kansas would be much different than the previous one.
Baylor led Kansas by just a point at halftime on Jan. 19 before falling apart in the second half of a 16-point loss. This time, the ninth-ranked Lady Bears led by 26 at the break and routed the Jayhawks 81-47 Saturday in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 tournament.
“I guess we knew we had to come out with more intensity,” Baylor guard Imani Wright said. “We still remember the loss that we took, so we felt like we needed to start fast and keep it going.”
The surge overwhelmed Kansas.
“They just looked at us and said, `We’re going to rip it and drive on you and offensive rebound and get you in transition,’” Kansas coach Bonnie Henrickson said. “Give them a tremendous amount of credit. They came out and ran a buzz saw and we didn’t have an answer defensively.”
Nina Davis, the Big 12 Freshman of the Year, led Baylor with 20 points and seven rebounds. Odyssey Sims, the nation’s scoring leader and Big 12 Player of the Year, added 15 points for the top-seeded Lady Bears (27-4).
Chelsea Gardner had 21 points and nine rebounds and Dakota Gonzalez added 10 points and six rebounds for No. 8 seed Kansas (13-19), which shot just 34 percent from the field and suffered its worst loss of the season. The Jayhawks were coming off an 87-84 overtime win over Kansas State the night before.
Baylor, the three-time defending tournament champion, advanced to play No. 18 Oklahoma State in the semifinals on Sunday. OSU defeated Iowa State 67-57 in the opener at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Baylor opened the game with a 22-4 run that put Kansas on its heels. Davis scored nine points during that stretch while Kansas made just 2 of its first 13 shots. Gardner made two of her first three shots for Kansas while the rest of the team started off 0 for 10 from the field.
Baylor made just 42 percent of its shots in the first half, but outscored the Jayhawks 17-1 from the free-throw line.
“It first started with Odyssey pressuring the defense, and we just followed her lead,” Baylor guard Niya Johnson said.
Baylor forced 10 turnovers in the first half and 20 total. The Lady Bears held Kansas to 9-for-34 shooting.
Davis scored 18 points in the first half and Sims scored 11. Gardner scored 11 points in the first half, but Asia Boyd, the team’s No. 2 scorer during the regular season, went scoreless on 0-for-2 shooting before the break and did not score in the game.
Sims committed her fourth foul with about 14 minutes to play, but by then, Baylor led 52-29. A 3-pointer by Makenzie Robertson bumped the advantage to 59-31 and led to a timeout by Kansas. The reserves maintained control of the game, allowing coach Kim Mulkey to keep the starters out for much of the second half. Davis played four minutes after the break and Sims played six.
“It’s what the other players did while the starters were resting,” Mulkey said. “They didn’t lose a lead. They didn’t do bad things on the floor. I saw a very mature team out there with that many young players extend the lead and get steals and deflections and defend, and that’s when you’re really, really pleased.”
Now, the Lady Bears can focus on Oklahoma State, which is about a 75-minute drive from the arena. Baylor won both games, but the game in Stillwater, Okla., on Jan. 26 went into overtime.
“I expect to see probably a lot more orange than green and gold in the stands,” Mulkey said. “It’s almost like playing a home game for Oklahoma State. I know that it was so difficult when we played them in Stillwater.”
Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP .