WACO, Texas (AP) — Baylor coach Kim Mulkey never wants to become content with getting to the NCAA Sweet 16, or ever take it for granted.
Led by the duo of Nina Davis and Niya Johnson, the Lady Bears are there for the seventh year in a row — and 10th overall in Mulkey’s 15 seasons.
Big 12 player of the year Davis scored 21 points, national assists leader Johnson had 12 more helpers to tie Baylor’s career record and the Lady Bears beat Arkansas 73-44 in their second-round NCAA Tournament game Sunday.
“They can play. They just don’t get talked about, and they don’t care,” Mulkey said. “All they care about are championships.”
Already with their fifth consecutive Big 12 regular-season and conference titles in hand, the Lady Bears (32-3) are in select company with their Sweet 16 streak. Top-ranked UConn has been that far the past 21 seasons and Stanford seven in a row — both play second-round games Monday with a chance to extend the longest active streaks.
Baylor, the No. 2 seed in the Oklahoma City regional, plays Iowa (26-7) on Friday.
“We have multiple weapons that can score,” said Davis, an undersized sophomore post player at 5-foot-11. “We’re playing great right now and heading to the Sweet 16, I think we just have a lot of confidence going into it.”
Kristy Wallace added 13 points, while Alexis Prince had 11 and Johnson 10. Sune Agbuke, the lone Baylor senior, had 12 rebounds and a career-high eight blocks.
Baylor took control with a 30-7 run to finish the first half, which ended with first-year Arkansas coach Jimmy Dykes getting a technical foul.
Jessica Jackson had 15 points and Melissa Wolff 13 for Arkansas (18-14), the No. 10 seed from the SEC.
“We had a phenomenal year and a bad day,” said Dykes, the former Razorbacks player and ESPN analyst. “We were picked 12th in the SEC. “Our first year we got to the NCAA Tournament, won our first-round game and had a bad time to play a bad game.”
Arkansas’ Calli Berna wound up on the ground after driving to the basket, and Davis got the ball before passing ahead to Johnson for a buzzer-beating layup. An irate Dykes then went to each of the three officials before getting a technical after Baylor was already in the locker room with a 41-21 lead.
“I was fighting for my team,” Dykes said afterward, not wanting to elaborate.
Johnson added two free throws before the start of the second half.
There were three ties and 10 lead changes early, the last when Johnson’s two free throws with 10:43 left in the first half that put the Lady Bears ahead to stay 15-14.
Baylor’s big half-ending run started with the previous basket, a fastbreak when Johnson had a rebound and a nifty bounce pass to Davis for a layup.
“We just had to settle down and get focused,” Davis said. “We knew they were going to come out and give us a hard first punch.”
Johnson, whose 296 assists as a junior this season are a Big 12 record, has 641 career assists. That matches the total by two-time All-America player Odyssey Sims the past four seasons.
The Razorbacks led 14-11 after Kelsey Brooks made a layup with 12:26 left. They then missed 12 field goals in a row until Jhasmin Bowen’s layup with 3:39 left, and were down by 13 points.
“I think each of us knows in our hearts how much of an amazing of a season that we had,” junior forward Melissa Wolff said. “We haven’t quit all season. We can all rest in that.”
WINNING AT HOME
Baylor has won 21 consecutive home games, a stretch that started with its first two NCAA Tournament games last season. The Lady Bears have won 152 home games in a row against unranked opponents, since losing to Auburn in the 2003 WNIT finals.
LONG TIME AGO
The former Southwest Conference rivals met for the first time since a first-round NCAA game in 2001, which was Mulkey’s first season and the Lady Bears’ first-ever tournament game. Arkansas won that game 68-59, the only first-round loss in Baylor’s 14 NCAA appearances.
Arkansas: In their five NCAA Tournament appearances since going to the 1998 Final Four, the Razorbacks have won a first-round game each time — and then lost in their second game. … The 20-point halftime deficit was their largest this season.
Baylor: The Lady Bears are 35-11 in NCAA Tournament games. … When Agbuke came out of her final home game with 8:47 left, she went to the bench to a wide smile and big hug from Mulkey, and a loud ovation from the crowd of 4,593.
Arkansas: Season over.
Baylor: Plays Iowa on Friday in Oklahoma City.
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