WACO, Texas (AP) — The full spectrum of emotions was on display for Baylor on Monday night.
On one hand, the Lady Bears had every reason to celebrate and did with confetti falling from the sky, a trophy presentation and cutting down the nets after closing out a perfect run through the Big 12 with an 80-54 win over West Virginia.
But that joy was mitigated by the potential of having to move forward without the player who has served as their engine.
Senior point guard Kristy Wallace left the game in the second quarter after a noncontact injury to her right knee and didn’t return. She participated in Senior Night festivities walking with a noticeable limp and returned to the bench on crutches in the third quarter.
Baylor coach Kim Mulkey wouldn’t speculate on the severity of the injury, except saying, “I know that if she could play, she would have been back out there, so it must be serious.”
Wallace averaged a career-high 13.1 points per game and leads the team with 155 assists this season. She played at least 25 minutes and 30-plus in all but three of Baylor’s last 15 games.
Juicy Landrum matched her career high with scored 20 points, Dekeiya Cohen had 18 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks. Lauren Cox had 17 points and 16 rebounds for the Lady Bears. Cox hit four 3-pointers after making only six this season before Monday.
“I just think it was open, and I know I can shoot that shot,” Cox said. “Coach Mulkey gives me the freedom to shoot it, and tonight it was falling for me.”
The Lady Bears (28-1, 18-0) led 21-19 in the second quarter before a five-point possession sparked a 19-3 run that made it an 18-point game early in the third, and West Virginia didn’t challenge again.
A week after wrapping up their eighth straight Big 12 regular season crown with a 93-87 shootout win on the road against then-No. 6 Texas, it was the Lady Bears defense that made the difference in this one. Baylor limited West Virginia to 33-percent shooting and blocked seven of 10 shots in the first quarter.
“We didn’t shoot the ball well or turned it over. Give them credit,” West Virginia coach Mike Carey said. “They played great defense on us, didn’t give us a lot of open looks. It seemed like every time we went in the paint we ate a Nike (had shots blocked). I don’t know if they have enough leather here to have another game, but we ate enough of it.”
Naomi Davenport finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds for West Virginia (20-10, 8-10), and Teana Muldrow added 16 points.
West Virginia: The Mountaineers finished the regular season losing three of their last four games but will still have a first-round bye as the No. 6 seed. They forced Baylor into 17 turnovers but only converted them into 12 points.
Baylor: With Wallace going down, Baylor used only seven players. That includes Natalie Chou, who entered in the final seconds with a heavy wrap on her left wrist. Brown, Landrum and Cox all went the distance, and Cohen, Baylor’s other senior, was credited with 40 minutes despite leaving to a standing ovation and being replaced by Chou.
Both teams will travel to Oklahoma City for the Big 12 Championships, which will be held Friday through Monday.