COLUMBIA, S.C. — Baylor coach Kim Mulkey knows her team can pound the ball inside. Once the No. 4 Lady Bears started hitting 3-pointers Sunday night, she knew No. 18 South Carolina wasn't going to be much trouble.
Baylor (7-0) made seven of its first 10 shots to jump out to a 16-3 lead. The Lady Bears scored 32 points in the first quarter — tied for the most ever against the Gamecocks (4-4).
Baylor went inside and outside. Seven of its 10 two-point field goals were inside the paint and they were 3 for 4 on 3-pointers.
"We're big and you better worry about our post game," Mulkey said. "But you better respect out perimeter game."
Baylor ended the first half leading 57-35, scoring the most points South Carolina has ever given up in a first half. The 94 points were tied for the most allowed by a Dawn Staley coached team.
"We tried to pick our poison and load up the inside," Staley said. "When you do that, you're going to give some wide open looks and we didn't expect them to hit all their shots."
Kalani Brown had 22 points and nine rebounds. Chloe Jackson had 19 points and seven assists and Juicy Landrum was 3 for 4 on 3s to finish with 15 points for the Lady Bears.
"Things are finally falling into place," Brown said of her team which has won the Big 12 regular season title all three of her seasons, but hasn't made the Final Four.
Te'a Cooper led South Carolina with 16 points. Sophomore LeLe Grissett scored 11 and had 10 rebounds for her first career double-double.
Baylor: Could this be the year the Lady Bears finally make it back to the Final Four for the first time since winning the national championship in 2012 in Brittney Griner's junior year? Baylor's size and hot shooting will make them hard to stop. The Lady Bears made 5 of 8 3-pointers and outscored South Carolina 52-28 in the paint. They shot 54.9 percent (39 of 71), just under their nation-leading percentage.
South Carolina: Each game makes it a little more painfully obvious that the Gamecocks are rebuilding after losing top WNBA draft pick A'ja Wilson. Baylor's inside presence dominated South Carolina in a way rarely seen since Dawn Staley came to town 10 years ago. The Gamecocks haven't been .500 after eight games since 2010 — Staley's third season and the last time they missed the NCAAs.
This was the first meeting between Baylor and South Carolina and their coaches. Kim Mulkey of the Lady Bears and Dawn Staley of the Gamecocks are the only women to play and coach in the NCAA Women's Final Four.
Staley said she wanted this matchup as soon as the SEC-Big 12 challenge was announced and she had Wilson, but they couldn't arrange it until now.
"I wish it was one of those years we could have got them at full strength," Staley said.
South Carolina's streak of 119 weeks in the AP Top 25 shouldn't end. The Gamecocks beat Dayton earlier in the week, and voters likely won't punish them for a blowout against the No. 4 team. Baylor seems locked in the fourth spot even with No. 1 Notre Dame's loss to No. 2 Connecticut. Baylor has been ranked 295 weeks.
Baylor: The Lady Bears host Morehead State on Dec. 12.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks host Appalachian State on Wednesday.