By Jeffrey Swindoll
Aside from the second half against Kansas, the Lady Bears have been disciplined on the road in Big 12 play against tough teams like West Virginia and Oklahoma State.
The Lady Bears showed their discipline on the road once again, beating the Oklahoma Sooners 81-67 in Norman, Okla.
This was Baylor’s fifth straight conference win, and ninth in all conference play, putting the Lady Bears even higher atop the league.
The Lady Bears continued their success in one of their most consistent phases in basketball– free throws.
Baylor received plenty of second chance points due to offensive rebounds from junior post Sune Agbuke and freshman forward Nina Davis.
Davis had an outstanding first half performance with 10 points and 13 rebounds, already guaranteeing her seventh straight double-double game.
Oklahoma (14-9, 5-5) fouled early and often. All three of Oklahoma’s usual top-scorers, guards Aaryn Ellenberg, Sharane Campbell and Gioya Carter accumulated three fouls apiece just in the first half.
The Sooners’ foul trouble easily put Baylor into the bonus before the 15-minute mark. Oklahoma kept on fouling and Baylor kept on making its free throws.
Baylor’s efficiency at the line punished the Sooners in the first half and cushioned the Lady Bears’ lead. Baylor converted 77.3 percent of free throws in the game.
The Sooners’ foul trouble would later come back to haunt them in the second half as Baylor went into the locker-room with a comfortable 47-31 cushion.
Officials called fairly soft fouls against both teams, but Oklahoma was undeniably more reckless, considering the way the game was officiated in the first half.
Campbell and Ellenberg, each of whom scored 4 points in the first half, committed their fifth personal fouls within eight seconds of each other, leaving the Sooners without two of their star players for almost the entire second half.
Those foul-outs were devastating blows to the Sooners’ chances as Oklahoma head coach Sherri Coale was forced to play without her usual offensive threats.
With Campbell and Ellenberg out, the Sooners surprisingly were able to produce more on the offensive end, cutting Baylor’s double-digit lead to 7 points with plenty of time left in the game.
Despite the lead and given the officiating, Baylor had to overcome its own foul trouble in the contest.
Oklahoma’s Carter led her team on a comeback in the second half as Baylor saw senior guard Odyssey Sims, Agbuke and Davis all picked up their fourth fouls.
However, the Lady Bears were disciplined, even when facing foul trouble. Once the Lady Bears were in their usual offensive rhythm, the Sooners’ late comeback was proven to be just that, too late.
Baylor recognized mismatches in the paint, feeding Davis who often scored or was fouled in the process of going to the basket.
Sims and freshman guard Imani Wright hit timely three-pointers to deflate Oklahoma’s hopes time after time.
The lead was too much for the Sooners. By the final three minutes of the game, Carter fouled out of the game. Coale ran out of weapons to fight back against Mulkey’s dynamic Lady Bears.
“There is not really much to say,” Coale said. “I’m proud of the ones that came in and stepped up. When our two best scorers went out of the game we didn’t cower down and lose by 40, we came back and kept fighting.”
Coale said her team struggled to find any flow in the game, calling it the “strangest game” she has ever been a part of.
“I felt we were focused,” Mulkey said. “I thought we came out and set the tone at the beginning of the game.”
Sims finished with 27 points and three assists. Sims averages 30.0 points per game.
“I see everything on the court,” Sims said. “I just see open teammates and I try to get the ball to them as much as possible.”
Although three assists may not always indicate a team-first type of player, Mulkey was pleased to talk about Sims’ unselfish performance and distribution.
“Yes, Odyssey is our catalyst but Odyssey can pass the ball and whip it to anyone she sees open.” Mulkey said. “How many times did you see her distribute the ball tonight? She’s just a special talent.”
Freshmen Davis and Wright each had a great night against Oklahoma. Wright, a bench player, posted 15 points, tying her career record and scored all seven of her free throws.
“[Wright]’s coming along every day in practice and getting better each game,” Sims said. “I think she values her minutes when she goes in and that’s what we need from a bench player.”
All in all, the Lady Bears put together another full team performance to improve their conference record with another huge road victory.
“We are a much better and much improved team than we were three months ago,” Mulkey said.
The Lady Bears return to Waco to play Oklahoma State at 3 p.m. Sunday at the Ferrell Center.