By Parmida Schahhosseini
The No. 9 Baylor Lady Bears defended home court with a decisive 99-31 victory over Savannah State Thursday in the first game of the Athletes in Action Classic.
Senior guard Odyssey Sims led the team in scoring with 22 points. Sims and the other guards opened up the floor allowing Baylor’s post players to have strong outings. Sophomore post Kristina Higgins scored 14 points while adding 11 rebounds for her first career double-double. Junior post Sune Agbuke added 10 points and 10 rebounds for her second career double-double.
“The guards always get it inside, but we never really finish,” Higgins said. “If you get the ball, finish and score. That’s what we were trying to do tonight, and I think we did pretty well with that.”
Baylor came out strong jumping to a 10-1 lead by running the floor and staying aggressive on defense. Savannah State got its first field goal of the night with 15:47 left in the first half. Freshman forward Nina Davis responded with back-to-back field goals.
With 11 minutes left in the half, Savannah State switched to a zone defense. The Lady Bears struggled against the zone and had a six minute field goal drought until Davis’ layup put Baylor back on the board.
“They had switched to the zone, and we missed some shots and let it affect us,” Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey said. “You expect those things to happen. This team is so young that there are going to be stretches where we look really good and energized and we do some good stuff. There are going to be stretches where we’re going to look bad. We just have to stay patient, and we just have to keep teaching.”
After that stretch, Agbuke tipped in a rebound for another score with Sims and freshman guard Imani Wright exchanging trips to the free-throw line. Baylor had a rough night from the charity stripe shooting 67.6 percent. Savannah State shot 35 percent from the free-throw line.
When Savannah State switched to the zone, it went on a 6-0 to put the game within 11 points. Baylor was able to take control late in the half by allowing four points in the last six minutes.
“In the first half, I was pleased with the physical presence that we brought to the floor against Baylor and the mental toughness of a young team,” Savannah State head coach Cedric W. Baker said. “I thought we lost it emotionally adjusting to the new rules. We could have played a little better in terms of that aspect of the game, but I was really pleased with us getting a little close with 12 and 13 points in the first half and in the second half we were just out of rhythm.”
In the second half, Baylor held Savannah State to three points in the first 10 minutes. After struggling against Rice, freshman guard Ieshia Small led the team with five assists. During one play, Small had possession of the ball, but had some early pressure from the defense, so she spun around the defender and lofted a backwards pass to Higgins for the score.
Savannah State did not reach 10 points in the second half until 3:57 left in the game and shot 0-15 from beyond the arc, making it the first time since 2007 that Baylor did not allow a 3-point basket.
Baylor extended its home winning streak to 61 games and faces Northwestern State at 7 p.m. Friday at the Ferrell Center.