By Parmida Schahhosseini
The No. 1 Lady Bears defeated Oklahoma State 77-69 in a physical, hard fought battle Sunday in the semi-finals of the Big 12 Tournament with senior guard Jordan Madden coming through in the clutch.
Senior post Brittney Griner led Baylor with a double-double, scoring 30 points. She also had 10 rebounds, seven blocks and three steals. Senior forward Brooklyn Pope had 12 points, seven rebounds, three assist and three steals. Senior forward Destiny Williams scored all 10 of Baylor’s bench points.
After committing four straight turnovers, Oklahoma State cut the lead to three points with 1:34 left on the clock. Madden sparked the offense with a clutch 3-point shot to give Baylor some breathing room.
“Jordan Madden is the story,” head coach Kim Mulkey said. “That’s who needs to be written about. When she was a freshman and sophomore, everybody wanted to expose Jordan Madden on Griner’s side and not guard her. She has stayed in the gym more than any of the perimeter starts. She might have hit the biggest shot of her career today and it wasn’t wide open. It was a shot clock winding down with people having their hands up.“
Baylor committed a season high 24 turnovers. Oklahoma State played physical ball, crowding the passing lanes and tipping balls in the air. Baylor’s sloppy throws didn’t help as they threw balls out of bounds or to the opponent. This was the second time this season that Baylor got outscored in the second half.
“I think we just faded a little bit on offense,” Sims said. “I think we let Oklahoma State’s defense speed us up on offense and we couldn’t get the ball to Brittney. No one took charge. I felt like we all stood around and were waiting for that one person to step up.”
From the beginning, Oklahoma State was determined not to let Baylor jump out on top as they scored each time Baylor did. However, Baylor turned up its defense and went on a 9-2 run sparked by a 3-point jumper from Hayden.
Oklahoma State tried to score, but had trouble setting up the offense. Baylor began switching players around to confuse the Cowgirls. This led to a shot clock violation which got the Baylor crowd cheering. Griner followed with back-to-back blocks, including one where she leaped across the paint and tipped the ball and came down with it.
Oklahoma State’s Toni Young responded with a jumper over Griner, but Baylor answered and went on a 10-2 run. Just as it seemed that Baylor was going to pull away, Oklahoma State’s Tiffany Bias sparked at 10-2 Cowgirl run that included back-to-back 3-point jumpers. Oklahoma State cut Baylor’s lead to single-digits, but the Lady Bears responded by scoring the last points of the game.
The Lady Bears didn’t look composed in the second half, committing 18 of their 24 turnovers. The Oklahoma State defense began to play in a two-three zone, which gave Baylor trouble. The pressure caused Baylor to make uncharacteristic mistakes on defense.
“Very proud of our basketball team,” Oklahoma State head coach Jim Littell said. “We went toe-to-toe with the number one team in the nation today.”
Baylor began the half by committing three straight turnovers, but found its rhythm for a while.
Sims showed her athletic ability when she leaped and got a shot in right when the shot clock expired. Sims got fouled and made her free throw, causing the Baylor crowd to roar.
Oklahoma State continued to fight, cutting the lead to single digits again after back-to-back layups from Young and Bias. Baylor’s poor transition defense allowed Oklahoma State to outscore the Lady Bears in fast break points.
Baylor responded with a couple scores of its own, but Oklahoma State continued to attack the paint with zigzag moves to keep the game close. Oklahoma State began to play physical ball, forcing Baylor into turnovers that cutting the lead to six. Baylor was unable to stop then defensively as Oklahoma State began attacking the paint.
Griner scored a key field goal, but Oklahoma State responded with its physical play, forcing Baylor into more turnovers. Back-to-back field goals from the Cowgirls put pressure on Baylor in the final minute. Baylor tightened up on defense in the last minute to win the game.
The Lady Bears will next play in the Big 12 Championship game tomorrow at 7 p.m.