By Jeffrey Swindoll
OKLAHOMA CITY – Baylor earned its fourth straight berth to the Big 12 tournament championship game after beating the Oklahoma State Cowgirls 65-61 on Saturday at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Okla. Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey also earned her 400th career win on Saturday.
The Lady Bears have a chance to win their sixth Big 12 tournament title at 8 p.m. on Monday night. Baylor is the favorite to win, living up to its No. 1 rank so far in the Big 12 championship tournament.
“[Playing in Mulkey’s 400th win is] kind of special,” senior Makenzie Robertson said. “It just makes me really proud of her and that I get to be a part of it.” Robertson is Mulkey daughter and played in Mulkey’s 300th win her freshman year.
Officiating was tough for both teams to overcome, and the positive attendance turnout from both sets of fans were not afraid to voice their disapproval to the referees from the stands. This was the third meeting this season between the two.
“It was a very physical game,” Mulkey said. “There was a lot of stoppage, a lot of fouling, a lot of all that going on, but both teams are battling and just trying to win. It was just that kind of game.”
Four Baylor starters posted double digit scoring performances. Only Brittney Martin from OSU scored more than 10 points for her team. Shooting was below .500 for both teams, and, in a physical game like this, free throws were critical for both teams. Baylor went 9-for-13 and OSU 12-for-19 from the line. Senior guard Odyssey Sims shot 6-for-22 and scored 17 points. Robertson shot 3-6 from downtown and finished with 13 points.
Sophomore guard Niya Johnson saw a rare night of 10 points. Johnson has been the team’s primary distributor rather than a double-digit scorer, but Mulkey said some words to Johnson to give her the confidence to pull up and the ball more.
“When I first subbed out, coach came up to me and told me to keep shooting the ball,” Johnson said. “I took her words to heart and I just kept shooting until it fell in, and once it went in, they were big shots.”
Freshman forward Nina Davis was the leading scorer for the second game in a row this weekend after scoring 21 against Kansas on Saturday and 18 against OSU on Saturday. Davis is shaping up to be a first choice for tournament MVP. Davis also grabbed the most rebounds for Baylor with six offensive boards and six defensive boards.
OSU guard Tiffany Bias went 3-for-11 and scored 9 points against Baylor– a disappointing performance to her.
“[Baylor is] a good defensive team,” Bias said. “They deny the passes, and really put pressure on the ball, so I think that we weren’t executing our offense on our end. If we just run our offense through we’d have been fine.”
OSU fought within single-digit leads all game long, but never broke through. The game was there to be won for the Cowgirls, but empty baskets and possessions in the first half came back to haunt them in the end.