OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Baylor accomplished its mini-goal. Now the Lady Bears are ready to chase the big one.
Kalani Brown had 17 points and seven rebounds to help No. 1 Baylor defeat No. 13 Iowa State 67-49 in Monday night's Big 12 Tournament championship game.
Brown, a 6-foot-7 senior center, was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player for the second straight year. She relished the championship, lifting coach Kim Mulkey up into the air in celebration when she came out of the game in the final minute. It was Baylor's 10th Big 12 tournament title overall and ninth in the past 11 years.
As for Brown, she has done virtually everything in her career except reach the Final Four.
"We set goals in the beginning of the season," she said. "This was pretty much the final little mini-goal before we make our run for the NCAA Tournament. So I think that's the only thing we haven't checked off our list is the Final Four, and if anything, winning tonight should make our team more focused."
This Baylor team looks ready to push it to the next level. Chloe Jackson scored 16 points and Lauren Cox added 14 for the Lady Bears (31-1), who outscored the Cyclones 19-5 in the fourth quarter.
Alexa Middleton led Iowa State with 18 points while Bridget Carleton, the Big 12 Player of the Year, was held to 13 points on 6-of-16 shooting. Baylor's DiDi Richards guarded her most of the time.
Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly said his team will learn a lot from the loss. The Cyclones (25-8) shot just 38 percent from the field.
"There isn't a team in the country that got better preparation for the NCAA Tournament than us," he said. "This is the best practice. Obviously, we lost the game, but I can't imagine anyone being more physical at both ends of the floor that we're going to see. Maybe there is, but I don't know who it is."
Baylor led 18-6 early, but Iowa State closed the first quarter on a 7-0 run. The Cyclones eventually tied the game at 20 and 22, but Baylor finished the half strong to take a 30-25 lead.
Iowa State tied the game at 37 in the third quarter, but Baylor again responded and led 48-44 heading into the fourth.
Fatigue set in for the Cyclones, and Baylor took advantage.
"The biggest thing is that they continue to just do what they do," Fennelly said. "They're not going to take a bad shot. They don't lose their poise on offense."
Iowa State: The Cyclones had nothing to lose and played like it. They look capable of making a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.
Baylor: The Lady Bears got a good test heading into tournament play. They kept their composure when challenged.
Baylor won despite failing to make a 3-pointer and attempting just three shots from beyond the arc. Mulkey doesn't see the point of shooting 3s when she has Brown and Cox.
"Well, how smart would I be if we shot 3s with a 6-5 and 6-7 post out there?" she said.
THE REAL MVP
Mulkey was vocal on Saturday about her belief that Brown, not Carleton, should have been the Big 12 Player of the Year. Carleton was the Big 12's leading scorer this season, something that didn't matter much to Mulkey.
"I don't know why we send out stats when we vote on awards," she said after the quarterfinal win over Texas Tech. "If you've played people, you should remember who hurt you."
The All-Tournament team was Brown, Carleton, Cox, Middleton and Texas' Sug Sutton.
Iowa State: Will get an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament.
Baylor: Could enter the NCAA Tournament as the No. 1 overall seed.
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