DALLAS (AP) Baylor coach Kim Mulkey looked toward the ceiling before explaining why her sixth-ranked Lady Bears allowed a 24-point second-half lead to shrink to six points before putting away Kansas State 80-72 Saturday in the Big 12 women's basketball tournament quarterfinals.
''Freshman. Sophomore. Sophomore. Sophomore. Sophomore. Junior. Senior,'' said Mulkey, citing the seven-player rotation for her Lady Bears (28-3). ''That's the problem.''
Nina Davis, one of those sophomores, scored 30 points and made a career-high six steals after being recognized as the conference's player of the year before tipoff. She hit 10 of 13 from the floor, 10 of 15 free throws, scoring 16 in the first half and 14 after.
Junior Niya Johnson, the Division I assist leader, had 11 assists and six steals. Sophomore Imani Wright added 14 points and freshman Kristy Wallace 13.
Kansas State (18-13) was led by a season-high 25 points from freshman Haley Texada of suburban Dallas.
''We just couldn't run it all the way back,'' first-year Kansas State coach Jeff Mittie said. ''Davis was - she was a problem all day long.''
Baylor was picked to finish second in the Big 12 this season, having lost All-American guard Odyssey Sims from last year's team that reached the regional finals. Instead, the Lady Bears won the regular-season conference championship for the fifth consecutive season with a 16-2 record and are eyeing their fifth straight league tournament title.
The Lady Bears swept K-State by margins of 30 and 22 points in the regular season, and they didn't allow more than 46 points. The game Saturday appeared headed for a similar result with Baylor leading 55-31 with 14:34 to play. But K-State pulled within six points with three minutes to go. A jumper by Davis and a layup by Wright thwarted the Wildcats' comeback.
''We just can't get content at the end and back off and not play defense and stop attacking because they're going to keep attacking us,'' Johnson said. ''We'll just have to keep attacking until the clock says zero.''
Kansas State shot 42.9 percent in the second half to finish at 39.7 for the afternoon. Baylor had allowed opponents to shoot only 34.3 percent during the regular season, best in the conference.
Mulkey said her team's inexperience is primarily revealed on defense.
''You'll have three of `em doing it right and, boom, the one that's not doing it right gets scored on,'' she said. ''You'll have two of `em talking and three of `em not talking.''
Said Texada: ''When you're down 20, I know for a lot of teams it's easy to just kind of fade out the game. Just got to keep playing hard.''
Davis' six steals contributed to Baylor's 15 overall. ''We just want to get in the passing lane,'' she said. ''We want to disrupt their offense.''
Wallace hit three 3-pointers, all during the first half. The Lady Bears went into the game averaging only 3.2 a game, last in the conference. They made four on Saturday, all during the opening half.
Baylor: The Lady Bears' 21-game winning streak against K-State is their longest current streak against a Big 12 opponent. . Baylor barely pushed past its season average of 80.5 points, tied for sixth in Division I.
Kansas State: Texada's five 3-pointers was a season high. ... Mittie, who came from fellow Big 12 member TCU, improved the Wildcats from 11 wins last season to a seventh-place Big 12 finish for the third-greatest one-season improvement in program history.
Baylor: Faces Oklahoma State (20-10) in tournament semifinal on Sunday.
Kansas State: Waits for a possible NCAA Tournament berth or more likely WNIT bid.