Lady Bears upset Big 12 foe on road

Oklahoma State forward Brittney Martin, left, and Baylor guard Odyssey Sims, right, chase after a loose ball during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Stillwater, Okla., Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014. (AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)
Oklahoma State forward Brittney Martin, left, and Baylor guard Odyssey Sims, right, chase after a loose ball during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Stillwater, Okla., Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014. (AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)

By Jeffery Swindoll
Sports Writer

In an overtime thriller, two of the Big 12’s top teams faced off on in another road test for the No. 12 Lady Bears.

Baylor overcame No. 8 Oklahoma State’s second-half comeback, and a frantic overtime period, to beat the conference leaders 69-66 on Sunday. Despite a big win over OSU, Baylor’s second-half slumps continue to plague the team.

Following No. 12 Baylor’s road upset win over No. 8 Oklahoma State, Baylor and OSU traded spots in the latest AP top 25 poll. Baylor is now ranked No. 9 and Oklahoma State fell to No. 11.

Head coach Kim Mulkey said her players put in good shifts in the first half of games throughout the season, but the second half of has been a struggle for the Lady Bears. Baylor has been outscored in its past four games in the second half.

Against OSU, Baylor held the lead for the majority of the first half and ended the half with a nine-point lead. The Lady Bears often go into halftime with a lead, usually a substantial lead, and it is apparent that this team is used to being in a comfortable lead when going into halftime.

Against a quick team like OSU, it is dangerous for Baylor to be complacent with a lead even if it is nine points, or more.

Junior post Sune Agbuke picked up three fouls in the first half, presenting a challenge for Baylor on the defensive end, but sophomore post Kristina Higgins seamlessly fulfilled her role on both sides of the floor after subbing in for Agbuke.

But the history from Baylor’s road loss against Kansas a week ago looked like it would repeat itself: another conference road loss after playing well in the first half, going into halftime with a lead but falling flat in the second half.

Just as she did against Kansas, Agbuke fouled out with over six minutes left to play in the game. Once again, the Lady Bears found themselves being outscored in the second half, but they were still in position to tie the game with 14 seconds left on the clock.

Baylor tied the game at 61 after senior guard Makenzie Robertson drained a clutch three with five seconds left in regulation.

“I thought Niya [Johnson] was going to shoot it, honestly, because I didn’t realize there was enough time for a three,” Robertson said. “As soon as I got it, I knew I needed to get it off. I wanted the ball, I wanted to shoot it. I did, and it went in.”

Robertson was having a career game, confidently making six of 10 three-point field goal attempts, but OSU still had the chance to deflate Baylor’s late second half gasp.

Immediately off the inbounds pass, OSU senior guard Tiffany Bias bolted down the court to attempt what would have been the game-winning layup, but missed off the backboard. Bias had the game in her hands, but missed.

After an upstart to the overtime period and some good defense, Sims iced the game with a layup and free-throw with three seconds left in overtime. Baylor was able to pull off an unlikely away victory in Stillwater.

Baylor’s depth was tested in the later portion of the game with Agbuke and Sims each in foul trouble. Robertson buried six three-pointers and freshman forward Nina Davis had 16 points and 17 rebounds shined on an overall off-day for Sims.

Sims’ teammates needed the self-assurance to know they can pull off the win even when she is not playing as well as she does in other games.

“I came in and tried to come in and be focused and not let the other team be tougher than us and hustle,” Davis said. “For us to win the game like this is huge, because when Odyssey struggles and we still come out with the win, it gives everybody confidence. If Odyssey was excellent this game, we can only imagine how different the score would have been.”

Although Sims was struggling to produce the amount of offense she usually does with her shooting, Baylor played with poise, even when it seemed it was going to be another “tale of two halves” road loss. The Lady Bears, rather than crumble without Sims driving the team, found a way to grind out a win. Players like Robertson, Davis and sophomore post Kristina Higgins stepped up when they needed to.

“I knew coming in that I was going to have to try and play tough and be bigger than I really am,” Robertson said. “I just did the best I could.”

Mulkey has stressed several times this season that she wants her players to understand how mental preparation plays into these big games.

“You just have to battle and have it within your soul to battle and do everything you can to help your team win,” Mulkey said. “I thought freshmen on both sides got valuable playing time and did good things.”

Baylor’s second half woes could be a thing of the past. The Lady Bears return to Waco to take on Texas Tech at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Ferrell Center.