7:00 PM ET, March 12, 2005
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Baylor fans used to get more fired up about free pizza than about anything happening on the court.Then again, the Bears were the worst team in the Big 12 just five years ago. Now they're ranked No. 6 and headed into the NCAA Tournament as the conference regular-season and tournament champions after beating No. 17 Kansas State 68-55 in the title game Saturday night."I used to say -- this is the God's truth -- 'I'm going to live to see the day that the crowd is into the game as much as when they try to win pizza,'" Kim Mulkey-Robertson said. "And we have lived to see that day."Sophia Young, the tournament MVP, led Baylor (27-3) with 18 points and Steffanie Blackmon had a season-high 14 rebounds. Chameka Scott added 12 points and Chelsea Whitaker finished with 10 for the former Southwest Conference members, who earned their first automatic NCAA bid in school history to complete their worst-to-first turnaround under the fifth-year coach.It wasn't easy against a Kansas State team that trailed Texas 17-0 in the semifinals before rallying to win 72-69.The Wildcats (23-7) started slowly in each half Saturday night but kept mounting comebacks that fell just short."We kept chipping away at that lead and we were within the ballgame," said forward Kendra Wecker, the Big 12 player of the year, who had 14 points and set a tournament championship record with 16 rebounds. "We just didn't do the things on offense we needed to."Kansas State, which trailed 47-30 with just over 14 minutes remaining, drew to three points and was still within 57-53 on Wecker's free throws with 3:53 to go. But the Wildcats scored only once after that, and Baylor closed out the game with an 11-2 run."We knew that if we had the lead, we needed to keep it up," Young said. "We weren't going to let it go, because we knew what they did a few days before. We weren't going to let them come back to the point where it was a tie ballgame."Megan Mahoney scored eight points in a 13-0 run that got the Wildcats within 47-43 with 7½ minutes left, and Kansas State got a boost when Young and Blackmon both picked up their fourth fouls near the end of that run.But after hitting the front end of a two-shot foul with 7:33 to go, Mahoney missed the second and then injured her left ankle in a collision as she tried to chase down the rebound. She did not return, and the extend of her injury was not immediately known.Baylor took advantage of the five-on-four opportunity with Whitaker's three-point play for a 50-43 lead."I thought we had a great deal of momentum, and then they go up five-on-four and score, and it's a three-point play," Kansas State coach Deb Patterson said. "That was a huge, huge play in the overall scope of the game."Mahoney still led Kansas State, playing in its first tournament final since the Big 12 formed in the 1996-97 season, with 17 points. Wecker, the Big 12 player of the year, had 14 points and a championship game-record 16 rebounds.Laurie Koehn added 11 points for the Wildcats, but the Big 12's career 3-point leader turned cold from outside after the half. Koehn went 3-for-6 from long range before the break but missed all four of her 3-point tries after that under heavy defensive pressure."I told them at halftime, 'When you think you're out on her, get a little bit closer,'" Mulkey-Robertson said. "That's all you can do when you have players that have that kind of range."The Bears held Kansas State without a field goal for almost six minutes to open the game and led 23-7 with just under nine minutes left in the first half. The Wildcats pulled to 34-28 on Koehn's last 3-pointer with 2:19 left in the half but trailed 39-28 at the break.Wecker, Mahoney, Blackmon and Texas' Tiffany Jackson joined Young on the all-tournament team.
Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press
Team Stat Comparison
|FG Made-Attempted||19-50 (.380)||25-55 (.455)|
|3P Made-Attempted||6-20 (.300)||6-13 (.462)|
|FT Made-Attempted||11-16 (.688)||12-20 (.600)|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||18 (0/0)||14 (0/0)|