By Jeffrey Swindoll
The Lady Bears had the ball and a one-point lead with just over 30 seconds left against West Virginia on Sunday. The Big 12 regular season title was within reach. Coming off a timeout, both teams had the words of their coaches ringing in their ears and understood their responsibilities for the wild finish the game was bound to have.
“I thought the setting was perfect to win a Big 12 Championship, but we just didn’t get it done there at the end,” Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey said.
With a five-second difference between the shot clock and the game clock, West Virginia and Baylor faced the inevitable — Baylor had to create a play and get a shot off if West Virginia did not foul. If Baylor failed to reset the shot clock, West Virginia would get the ball with at least five seconds to make a play of its own to win the game.
As the shot clock was winding down, senior guard Odyssey Sims tried to find an opening through the trap, but errantly turned over the ball. Sims missed what would have been the go-ahead layup with just seconds left on the clock on the ensuing play.
The Lady Bears were in tears as the reality began to settle in their minds that they missed their chance to win the Big 12 regular season title on senior night at the Ferrell Center.
“We’ve got to move on,” Sims said. “We’ve got a quick turnaround Tuesday.”
Sunday’s loss devastated the young Lady Bears as well as the upperclassmen, notably Sims and senior guard Makenzie Robertson, but Mulkey reminded her team to keep in perspective the season as a whole.
“We can still win the Big 12 Championship,” Mulkey said. “We’ve got to regroup. We’ve got to go to Iowa State and we need to take the emotion from this game and move on.”
The Lady Bears face Iowa State (20-8, 9-8) tonight in Ames, Iowa, and still can win the No. 1 seed for the upcoming Big 12 tournament this weekend.
Baylor handled Iowa State comfortably in the last meeting 89-51 earlier in the season.
The Cyclones are a characteristically high-percentage team in three-point shooting, but against the Lady Bears they only shot 3-for-25.
ISU head coach Bill Fennelly gave credit to Baylor’s defense for the Cyclones’ low scoring that night, but also said his team usually is a three-point shooting powerhouse. The Cyclones rely on their perimeter shooting for offensive production.
Mulkey’s occasional decision for press defense on Iowa State was effective and forced crippling turnovers for the Cyclones.
The press defense suffocated an Iowa State team that was already struggling to make shots.
“I take this on myself,” ISU forward Hallie Christofferson said. “They were playing good defense, but I just didn’t make some shots I should have.”
Iowa State is looking to continue its recent three-game win streak after beating Oklahoma State and Kansas on the road.
The Lady Bears on the other hand, are coming off their first home loss in four years and a consequential loss against West Virginia. Both teams have emotions to sort out prior to their final regular season matchup against each other at 7 p.m. at James H. Hilton Coliseum.