By Jeffrey Swindoll
The No. 7 Lady Bears beat the Texas Longhorns 72-58 in another huge Big 12 road win on Sunday at Frank Erwin Special Events Center in Austin. Baylor (22-3, 12-1) climbs even higher atop the Big 12 standing with the win over Texas (17-8, 8-5) on Sunday, all but solidifying first place in the Big 12 regular season.
Just as it was in Waco, the last time these two played, both teams expected a physical game.
Senior guard Odyssey Sims was the half’s top scorer with 12, but only made three of her 15 field goal attempts. Sophomore guard Niya Johnson usually earns more assists than points, but in the first half she posted seven points and just one assist.
“The more Niya scores for us, the better we are,” Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey said. “She’s just a great distributor so any points she picks up helps us a lot.”
Sims was in double figures, but a big portion of the scoring did not come from open play. There were plenty of fouls going both ways. Naturally, both teams went to the line often, forcing the first half difference maker to be free throw shooting.
UT went 2-for-8 from the free-throw line to shoot 25 percent. Baylor, on the other hand, took care of business at the charity stripe, making 60 percent of its shots.
Freshman forward Nina Davis, a usual offensive threat for Baylor, had to watch the game from the sideline for a strong portion of the first half because of two early personal fouls.
Both teams shot under 34 percent from the floor, and each team committed its fair share of turnovers. Baylor had the edge though, turning the ball over seven times when the Longhorns committed 11 turnovers in the first half. Baylor held UT scoreless in the last four minutes of the half, going on a 6-0 run to end the half at 30-21.
Sims started the second half with a layup to push Baylor’s lead to 11. UT tried to respond quickly but missed some shots and turned the ball over. Texas head coach Karen Aston called a timeout, just one minute into the half, trying to regroup her team.
“Coach called a timeout and said, `They taste blood, they’re going for it,” Texas forward Nneka Enemkpali said. “We couldn’t find an answer.”
Shooting was abysmal for both teams in the first 10 minutes of the second half. There was no real flow to anyone’s offense, but Texas missed open looks that could have put them in better position to compete in this game.
“We had missed free throws and missed easy buckets when we could have stayed in the game,” Aston said.
It was hard for either team to find some rhythm mostly due to all the stoppages in play for fouls and turnovers.
In the midst of the physicality and disruptive play, Baylor started to pull away in the second half. Sims just kept on scoring, going 11-for-28 from the field and 10-for-13 from the line, and Texas could not do much to stop her. Sims scored at will and ended the night with 34 points, more than any player in the game.
“It was nothing they were doing defensively,” Sims said. “I was getting good looks. I’m usually not that wide open coming out of screens.”
Both teams had players in foul trouble. Texas’ Imani McGee-Stafford picked up four fouls with almost 10 minutes left in the game. As one of the tallest players on the floor, and a huge offensive and defensive asset, it was a huge blow for the Longhorns when McGee-Stafford fouled out with over five minutes left. The Lady Bears were able to drive more aggressively in the paint with McGee-Stafford out of the game.
For Baylor, Davis fouled out of the game with just under four minutes left in the game. The five-time Big 12 Freshman of the Week checked out of the game with 13 points and 10 rebounds, Baylor’s second top scorer behind Sims.
Shooting started to pick up toward the end of the game. Baylor made 40 percent from the field, and Texas made 38 percent, but it was a generally sloppy game all-around. Baylor held all of Texas’ scorers to under 10 points. Texas held Baylor under 13 points each, except for Sims. The All-American senior guard was the difference.
Mulkey expected Enemkpali to be the main source for Texas’ scoring on Sunday. She posted 10 points and nine rebounds– Texas’s leader in both categories on Sunday, but not enough to beat the Lady Bears.
Texas tried to find some life late in the game as forward Nekia Jones made two big three-pointers in a row, but it was not enough to overcome Baylor’s massive lead. The Lady Bears, comfortable with their lead, hung on to earn another road win against one of the Big 12’s top teams.
The Lady Bears return to Waco to face Iowa State (17-7, 6-7) for the first time this season at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Ferrell Center. The game will be televised on Fox College Sports.