By Jeffrey Swindoll
The No. 7 Lady Bears defeated the Oklahoma State Cowgirls 81-64 at the Ferrell Center on Sunday, earning their 20th win on the season and widening the gap even more in the Big 12 standings.
The Cowgirls (19-4, 8-4) were generally well-disciplined early in the game and kept Baylor’s transitional offense subdued early on. Oklahoma State players hustled back, running with the ball carrier and any options for a pass.
Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey recognized OSU was doing well in transition defense and adjusted accordingly, telling her players to be patient. Sophomore guard Niya Johnson and Odyssey Sims slowed down the play to establish Baylor’s half-court offense. Mulkey did not want her players to try and force the issue.
The Lady Bears (20-3, 10-1) took their time on the offensive end, using most of the shot clock on each offensive possession.
Both teams played physical on both ends of the floor. Despite the physicality, both teams were able to stay out of foul trouble.
That discipline seemed to wear off towards the end of the first half for the Cowgirls. Oklahoma State ended the half with eight turnovers while Baylor turned it over three times. The Lady Bears went into halftime utilizing 16 points off of OSU turnovers.
Senior guard Makenzie Robertson had another sharp display of three-point shooting. Robertson made three out of six three-point attempts in the game.
Mulkey said she was pleased by Robertson’s performance guarding junior forward Liz Donohoe, but also on Robertson’s execution on offense.
Senior guard Odyssey Sims was on track for another 30-point game just in the first half. Shooting 8-for-9, Sims finished the first half with 19 points and finished with 33 points in the contest.
On the other side of the floor, Oklahoma State’s offense was struggling. Senior guard Tiffany Bias was kept quiet for most of the half, shooting 2-for-8 from the floor and 1-for-4 from beyond the line.
Neither team had a major run in the first half, but Baylor’s offense was firing on all cylinders. The Cowgirls did not give up much, but the few chances they gave up, Baylor was there to take advantage and score on some easy layups.
When OSU started to lose a bit of the momentum, Baylor just kept on being efficient.
After big shots throughout the game, Lady Bears on the court and on the bench, including Mulkey, would throw their arms up, motioning for the crowd to get louder. The crowd responded, and the Lady Bears were buzzing with confidence. The crowd noticeably affected the game for both teams.
“This is a very difficult place to play,” OSU head coach Jim Littell said. “We got beat by a good basketball team. You can see their young kids getting better each time out too.”
Sophomore guard Niya Johnson, one Baylor’s younger players, finished with a season-high 12 assists against the Cowgirls.
Baylor executed well on offense, but defense was one of Baylor’s biggest focuses coming into this game. The Lady Bears defensive game plan revolved around eliminating big plays in transition.
“The first thing we wanted to do was make sure they executed a half-court offense,” Mulkey said. “They like to push the ball with [senior guard Tiffany] Bias, and we just wanted to make sure they didn’t do that.”
The Lady Bears shut down Bias, holding OSU’s top scorer this season to 11 points. Bias shot 4-for-11 overall and only 1-for-4 from the free-throw line.
Bias’ quiet night had a lot to do with who she went up against on Sunday. Sims guarded Bias most of the night. The Sims-Bias matchups turned out to be one of the marquee point guard one-on-one battles in the Big 12 this season.
“I think she is one of the top point guards in the country that I’ve played against and by far in the Big 12,” Sims said. “She’s fast and she’s quick. She can score any time she gets ready.”
Donohoe, one of OSU’s only positive takeaways from this game, finished with 22 points, shooting 8-for-13.
Littell said he liked what he saw from Donohoe, but commended Baylor’s performance all-around. Littell said Sims was lethal more than anyone else tonight.
“I’ve said since early in the season that Odyssey Sims in the best player in the country and I think she showed that tonight,” Littell said.
Baylor’s 10-point lead going into the second half turned out to be insurmountable for the Cowgirls. Making several critical three-pointers and being smart with the ball, the Lady Bears would not let their foot off the gas pedal on the way to a 17-point win.
The Lady Bears go on the road to face in-state rival Texas Tech at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in Lubbock.